Book Review: The Guard of Woestynn (2023)

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The Guard of Woestynn by E.M. McConnell

I had no idea what to expect diving into this one! I was kindly sent a few of the author’s books and just dove straight in. I think that works really well for this one.

It’s a very short little novella and follows Ford, a prison guard newly arrived on a dust ridden planet where the prisoners of the gravest crimes in the galaxy are dropped off and have to earn the right to be let inside the prison. The way to earn that right is by collecting ore and selling it back to the prison. At the same time, there are some prisoners who have no desire to be in the prison and have adapted to the harsh environment and put the new prisoners in danger. (There are also dangerous creatures the prisoners have to contend with.) When Ford witnesses this, he tries to come up with a way of protecting the prisoners outside the prison so that they have the time to find the ore and gain entrance to the prison.

I thought the questions the novella posed were quite interesting, and I could really visualise the setting and the scenes. A very thought provoking story!

Thank you to the author for sending me a paperback edition to review!

Book Review: Thinly Veiled (2023)

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Thinly Veiled by Eliza Modiste

Escape. It was always a word that daunted me, but I supposed that was because it’s more of a relative term than anything.

I’ve been reading so much fantasy lately that it was nice to switch it up a bit with a modern day romance! I flew through it, too. A lovely read for a sunny day!

Thinly Veiled follows Claire and Zoey when they leave their hometown for a fresh start in Salem, Virginia. The lucky ladies manage to find jobs almost immediately and quickly fall in with the locals: Luke, the barman and Liam, the neighbour. And then James later on, Luke’s brother.

From the get go, it’s clear that Claire wants to forget her past with her ex, Colton, and the secrets she’s keeping about her family situation, and the things she had to do to get out. So she is firmly in the past? What’s that? mode upon arrival in Salem and no matter how many questions Luke asks as they get to know each other, she remains pretty tight lipped. And Zoey, as her best friend, is only too happy to help her do so. (Random aside: It’s actually funny, now that I think about upon finishing the book, how that’s the first thing Claire notes about Liam – not talking about his past – yet she does the same thing! And then tells Zoey that it’s why she has some doubts about him. And whilst she doesn’t trust him, in retrospect he totally had the the right to feel the same way.)

I must say, I really like how the relationships developed between the four (later five). I do think Luke was a little too harsh on Liam, though. Like, from the way he was acting, I totally thought Liam was going to end up being WAY WORSE, but he ended up being one of my favourite characters and he really did nothing wrong. Like, not once. (Liam and Zoey were darn right heroes, honestly.) It honestly took me by surprise when he ended up being so cool? Luke’s reaction to Liam’s mere presence at the start made it seem like he was going to be a nightmare, lmao. So, that definitely took me by surprise. Diversionary tactics!

I really liked James when he came along, too. He was a fun character and I wanted to see more of him and Luke, and him and Zoey. (James and Zoey follow up book, yes yes?)

Claire and Luke’s relationship was very cute from the onset. Their chemistry was great and their romance was very believable. I really liked where the story ended up, too. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that I liked how everyone was just really determined to have everyone else’s back and actually listened to each other.

Definitely gonna keep an eye out for more books from Modiste!

Thank you to the author for sending me a paperback edition to review!

Book Review: Orphan Planet (2023)

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Orphan Planet by Rex Burke

Dervla: most likely to discover aliens, if there are any out there.
Karlan: most likely to eat an alien.
Manisha: most likely to be eaten by an alien.
Poole: most likely to arm-wrestle an alien, no question.
Bryson: most likely to spot an alien and start running.
Dana: most likely to be an actual alien.

Oh my gosh this book is just very fun. It reminds me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Red Dwarf meets Avenue 5. We follow our listless, hapless and very confused protagonist, Jordan, after he’s brought out of cryosleep seventeen years or so after signing up for a mission to New Earth, funded by billionaires desperate to get off Earth as climate change wreaked havoc on Earth. As Earth is still liveable, just plagued by storms and floods, the list of volunteers amounts of everyone who was willing to trade the guarantee of a life on Earth for a possible life out in space. Jordan, who’s disenchanted with his life and has no one left after his parents died and his girlfriend broke up with him, signs up to go.

Ostensibly, he’s going to be the historian on New Earth once they arrive. But he’s been woken up early by the crew to do something none of them want to do – and something he certainly never intended on doing – and that is raise the crew’s children. Six children who were conceived on accident when the crew failed to work out birth control on board during the first year in space. And none of the parents want to take care of any of the children – the AI on board posits that something may have dampened their emotions. But what it amounts to is there are six children and, after the teacher who was woken up before Jordan to raise them is now gone, Jordan’s next up.

Reeves was a great character. Bloody hilarious. He’s the AI who runs the ship and steers/navigates, and who’s picked up sarcasm during the last seventeen years. His primary function is to keep everyone safe and alive, and though he snarks and sasses at every turn, he does his job perfectly. His banter with Jordan and the kids had me giggling out loud.

I thought Sam was a great character, even if we only meet her through recordings. She really was such a kind heart.

I will say, the crew’s disinterest in the children was really upsetting. Like, it’s kind of explained, and obviously there are people who truly just don’t want to be parents, but the fact that there were, like, two hundred crew members and the only ones who gave a shit about the kids were Juno and Gerald made me feel so awful for them. Like, fair play to Sam and Reeves for ensuring that those children grew up capable of love and kindness, because they certainly weren’t shown any by their biological parents. Bless Sam, Jordan, Juno, Gerald and Reeves for giving them something like parental support/mentoring.

I honestly loved Jordan and the kids, all six of them. Not one of the kids was unlikeable or annoying. They were all just utterly endearing. The whole book is basically one big found family trope and I adored every single page of them bonding, bantering and bickering.

This book is honestly funny (so funny) and fairly wholesome and uplifting. It’s a laugh-out-loud romp in outer space as poor Jordan tries to figure out how to bond with the teenagers who have never had anyone other than Reeves, the AI, and Sam, their previous teacher, show even the remotest bit of love for them. And then, just as Jordan is starting to figure things out, unforeseen events force him to really step up in the Dad Mode role. (I loved how he came to view them as his kids. Truly such a good egg our Jordan.)

I completely, wholeheartedly recommend this gem of a book and I can’t wait to read the next one and see where the mysteries and adventures take Jordan and the kids.

Thank you to the author for providing a paperback edition for review.

Check out my master list of book reviews here, and my indie book reviews with the genres labelled here.

Book Review: Haiku (2023)

Haiku by E.M. McConnell

The world quiets slow
As the call to write beckons
Another world looms

I think this is my favourite of McConnell’s poetry collections so far! I really enjoy haikus and this collection had so many wonderful ones. It must also be noted that this book is just pretty. The little pictures placed on every section divider were so lovely and really helped situate each series of themes focused on by the haikus. I’m very big on poetry with aesthetics and I simply adored this one. It made for a very easy, very pleasing light read and I wholly recommend haiku and poetry fans check this collection out!

Thank you to the author for a paperback edition of this collection for review.

Check out my master list of book reviews here, and my indie book reviews with the genres labelled here.

Nonfiction Book Review: Beyond the Shadow of Camptown: Korean Military Brides in America (2002)

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Beyond the Shadow of Camptown: Korean Military Brides in America by Ji-Yeon Yuh

This book reminded me of The Feminine Mystique, although it took me a while to realise why. Both focus on women during and after the 1950s and the changes that impact them in their daily lives. But where The Feminine Mystique focuses on women unhappy with their lives in the domestic setting, Beyond the Shadow of Camptown traces the lives and experiences of Korean women who married US military men and then began their lives in the United States and are thus plunged into that setting.

Many of the women Yuh interviews were the first and, for a long time, only Korean in their new neighbourhoods in the US, and often their lives had to conform around their husbands’. Everything from their daily language to their friendship circles to their homemade meals changed. [The chapter where American meals and Korean meals are compared and examined was fascinating (and made me really hungry!).] But it was truly eye-opening and heartbreaking to read women often found that they could not cook freely in their own home, and so they cooked meals for each other and found ways to recreate their favourite Korean dishes in towns where there were few ingredients to find.

A deep loneliness resonates through the pages; I think that’s why it made me think of The Feminine Mystique. The women Yuh interviews describe being often utterly lonely in their homes, emotionally and linguistically unable to fully communicate with their husbands, and sometimes even unable to properly connect with their children as a result. Many of them describe being used and sneered at by their families despite sending money home or caring for their children due to how much stigma surrounded their marriages. Many were ostracised not only from their family, but their former friends and even other immigrants for their choice to marry a military man due of the assumptions made by others of the circumstances surrounding their marriages (assumptions which stemmed from the camptowns mentioned in the title).

But there is also a coming together of the women that is beautiful. Yuh also discusses the burgeoning women’s groups these women start and the cross-country connections they make to bring each other together and help future generations of military brides begin their new lives abroad. I found myself utterly amazed by their perseverance and courage.

This is a truly fascinating, heartfelt and ultimately kind book. Highly recommended.

Book Review: Sul: From Gold to Iron and Rust (2023)

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Sul: From Gold to Iron and Rust by Jacqui Davis and Katy Grierson

They had to go, these strangers, before they dug their claws into Cydric’s land.

I got a hardback copy of this and it’s absolutely STUNNING. The design is lovely and the colours are rich and vibrant. There’s a lovely map on the inside and several coloured illustrations throughout. I really loved all the artwork. You get to see the various characters and the scenery and the creatures. I loved the drawings of Aysel especially. Her eyes were super cool. (I was reading this alongside The Way of Kings, which has illustrations throughout too, and side by side they made for a beautiful set.)

Right, so Sul follows several characters: Aysel, Cydric, Elmes, Margo. There’s also Enoch and Damien, Ululani and Solomon. Each one is very different. Aysel is a demon usually in wolf-ish form; Cydric the priest, is deeply religious and protective of his homeland, and also best friends with Solomon, a vampire; Elmes is an arrogant colonialist and newly crowned king; Margo is a young royal who is drawn into the chaos because of her family’s wealth and position.

I thought the worldbuilding and religions and character dynamics were fascinating. It really reminded me of Sordaneon, actually. The opening of both is a murder in the royal palace and the MC becoming a successor. Both are viewed as magical, all powerful kings. (Side note: If you haven’t read Sordaneon, I definitely recommend it!) In Sul, Elmes is ‘given’ a territory by his uncle. After his uncle is murdered, he ventures north to claim the land and make it his own. He even names it after himself. When he arrives, the locals – namely Cydric – help him, but he quickly turns on them and casts them out of their own home. Elmes drove me up a wall, honestly. He’s very much a colonialist ruler, but thankfully the storyline doesn’t let him sit in charge throughout. Cydric, Aysel and others plot to overthrow him.

I thought the inclusion of vampires, demons and angels in an earth-world fantasy was really fascinating. It’s not a mashup I’m used to and it was a really original take on the genre. I’m very curious to see where book two takes the characters because the ending was such a cliffhanger! I can’t wait to find out what happens to Cydric, little Terrin and Aysel especially!

Thank you to the authors for a hardback copy of the book.


– The terminology is a little confusing for me, but that also happened with The Bone Season and Sordaneon, so I’m sure once I sink into it, it’ll all make more sense! I’m slow to understand epics at times, ha! (The use of never instead of no/not when it’s Elmes’ POV definitely took some adjusting to, although that could just be a me-thing.)
– The book is so thick my hands actually hurt reading it lmaoooo. But I don’t mind 😉
– I’m not sure I trust Ululani at all. She seems like she’s going to betray Elmes.
– I feel bad for Enoch.
– The characters seem to worship the sun (Sul), and call the king ‘His Radiance’, but they also talk about angels, which is interesting. It’s like a mixture of real world stories and fiction. Very interesting! And the names are also angelic: Enoch, Metatron, etc.
– I’m wondering what the implications are going to be for the people living in the lands that Elmes feels entitled to. Surely they’re not going to be happy?
– Enoch knowing a woman named Damien who can control demons took me by surprise.
– I’m finding Aysel and Cydric’s sections very enjoyable, but I’m really struggling with Elmes. His arrogance and ‘worship me’ and colonialist vibes are just maddening. Expecting Cydric and Solomon to treat him like a king when THEY RESCUED HIM and WELCOMED HIM INTO THEIR HOME?!!? And then he STEALS THEIR HOME?! Like fuck you, Elmes. You’re the actual worst.
– Aysel is probably my favourite so far. And I love the artwork of her! So cool!

Check out my master list of book reviews here, and my indie book reviews with the genres labelled here.

Book Review: Gryphons Don’t Celebrate Shavuot (2023)

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Gryphons Don’t Celebrate Shavuot (Loveable Monster Holiday Book #3) by Michelle Franklin

Just like Shavuot, Gryphons understand about having many different names. Shavuot is called ‘the festival of weeks’, ‘the festival of reaping’, and ‘the day of the first fruits’. Shavuot is also called Shavuos, which is just the word Shavuot but if you kicked the syllabic emphasis and the T about a bit*. Gryphons don’t mind which pronunciation you use, because they’re used to being called griffons, griffins, or gryphons since no one can make up their minds about the spelling. They are also accustomed to being called ‘hey, you!’ but not by one person for very long.

Michelle Franklin has become one of my all time favourite authors. Her Loveable Monster Holiday Books are just so charming and sweet, and it’s so wonderful to see new Jewish books for kids! We don’t have nearly enough. As with her previous books, I adored Gryphons Don’t Celebrate Shavuot. (We’re even getting a few recurring characters, like beloved Bubbeh Yenta!!)

Bubbeh Yenta is also good at counting, because she counted how many grey hairs you’ve given her and always counts how many pieces of noodle kugel you’ve left on your plate.

There’s so many cute gryphons (and gryphons mixed with other breeds, like the gryphon/pigeon character, the grygeon. SO FREAKING CUTE!) and as usual Jonathan Burrello’s art renders each one perfectly. This duo is clearly unstoppable together – a tour de force in children’s literature, in my humble opinion. I loved all the bits of Jewish tradition and religion that Franklin managed to pack into fun, wholesome little passages.

Bubbeh Yenta calls the pilgrimages ‘the three big schleps’. She calls Shavuot ‘the big schlep and schvitz’, because it happens in summer when the humidity does a number on her hair.

It’s such a light, cute, fun read and yet very informative.

I honestly can’t recommend Franklin’s books enough, for kids and adults. I can’t wait to see what the next one is!

Thank you so much to the author for a review copy.

My review of Werewolves Don’t Celebrate Hanukkah is here.
My review of Dragons Don’t Celebrate Passover is here.
My review of The Orc Who Saved Christmas is here.

Thank you to the author for a review copy.

Check out my master list of book reviews here, and my indie book reviews with the genres labelled here.

Book Review: Onyx and Ivory (2018)

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Onyx and Ivory (Rime Chronicles, #1) by Mindee Arnett


Honestly this book is everything I want in a fantasy. And definitely a case of why didn’t I read this sooner?! Good romance, friends who work together, an interesting magic system, ALL THE HORSE LOVE. You can really tell the author is an equestrian – her horse love and knowledge shines through the pages. I loved Kate and Corwin’s relationship so much. It was healthy and wholesome and so satisfyingly done. I loved Kate, Signe and Bonner’s adorable friendship. I loved Dal and Corwin’s friendship. I loved Dal just throwing his hat in with Kate, Signe and Bonner, no hesitation at all. I loved how Corwin stepped up at the end. Just, amazing. So satisfying.


– Love Kate from minute one. She’s amazing and her ability to talk to horses (and other animals) is so cool.
– Corwin’s pretty groovy. I feel quite bad for him so far.
– These two are like instant OTP material honestly.
– Dal is great.
– Bonner and Signe are great.
– The magists give me Children of the Light vibes.

Check out my master list of book reviews here, and my indie book reviews with the genres labelled here.

Book Review: The Crown’s Game (2016)

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The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game, #1) by Evelyn Skye


I absolutely devoured this wintry gem of a book. It’s a perfect romance read that takes two gifted magic users drawn into a competition by the Tsar to be the Imperial Enchanter for all of Russia. In this alternate history world, each country has its own source of magic to protect itself. Usually this task falls to one person, who is trained by those who can use small amounts of magic, but none so powerful as them. (I was a little confused by the magic system, but I have a feeling it’ll be made more clear in the next book so I’m being patient!) But in this book’s generation of magic users – which, we learn, has happened before on rare occasions – two are born with the powers of the Imperial Enchanter. And so the Tsar pits them against each other – to the death.

Vika and Nikolai, the two competing in this game, have been trained all their lives in secret by a pair of siblings at odds with each other. (I really liked the brother and sister dynamic of their guardians and how that developed during their chapters.) Where Vika’s guardian has treated her like his daughter and she loves him, Nikolai’s guardian has treated him like a soldier with little in the way of love ever showed to him. The contest forces the pair’s paths to cross (although they run into each other by accident beforehand), but it’s basically love at first sight for these two. And it’s so well done. Honestly. I really enjoyed the way they developed the romance. It’s both insta-love and not, but if you’re wary of insta-love, I can assure you that even if they’re drawn towards each other, the rest develops quite slowly and nothing is rushed! Despite wearing disguises that hide their identities and setting up wards to keep themselves safe and hidden, the pair are magically drawn to each other even when tasked with outperforming each other to survive. Their magicks mirror and complement each other; two halves of the same coin type of thing.

Despite how truly grim the circumstances and the dark end result of the game – that one of them is destined to die – the competition itself isn’t dark or grim for the most part. The pair compete with each other to impress the Tsarevich, who also happens to be Nikolai’s best friend, Pasha. (FUCK YOU PASHA.) Their competition mainly centres around cleaning up and repainting the neighbourhoods; building an elaborate glass pumpkin filled with pastries and goodiess; creating an island of wonders with dream-chairs and more besides. It’s not a duel-duel (at least not until the very end). And as Nikolai and Vika are busy turning Saint Petersburg into a festive town with mood lighting and tasty treats and grand balls, they also fall in love. Alas, Pasha is also falling in love with Vika, although he knows nothing of magic or the Crown’s Game, as his father is keeping that a secret from him. He ends up researching on his own and learning the truth about Vika, but not Nikolai. I did like Pasha at first. I thought he was spoiled and naïve, but good-hearted. But oooh, by the end I just did not like his choices. I’m furious about his behaviour in the last few chapters. Just, ugh. FUCK YOU PASHA.

There’s another POV character that I thought was perhaps the most fascinating but I don’t want to spoil her role so I’ll just be vague. We don’t learn her real identity and how she plays into the plot until a bit later on, but I thought she was an interesting foil for the characters. Truly grim and sad though. That whole side plot rather broke my heart honestly and I’m very curious to see where it goes in the next book.

This book reads at times like a fairy tale; at times it’s almost dreamlike, and then other moments are just like nightmares. Like the light-dreamlike parts are very wintry-cosy, but the contrast between those and the dark bits is striking. Honestly, The Crown’s Game is wonderfully done, the characters all interesting and vivid, and I can’t wait to read book two!


– Between the Shadow & Bone TV show and my rewatch of Anastasia earlier this month, and now this, I’m on a historical Russian-inspired fantasy roll. This one takes place in an alternate Imperial Russia, where the Tsar uses a magical enchanter to help protect the crown. Normally there’s only one, but this time Vika and Nikolai are both training for the title.
– Pasha and Yuliana are sweet siblings so far. Clearly Yuliana is going to be a force to be reckoned with, although the fact that she’s thinking two steps ahead of both her brother and her father, whilst her brother is the heir, makes me wonder how that’s going to go for them.

Check out my master list of book reviews here, and my indie book reviews with the genres labelled here.

Review Roundup

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Wolf Prince of Kstovo: Midwinter Nights by Mark Jonathan Runte

His court was the open winter fields and the dancing green blue lights overhead. The place where he could lift his head and sing to the winter stars.

This short wintry tale follows a family’s encounters with the ‘wolf prince’ who comes to them one winter’s night and extracts a bargain from a woman longing for a child. I thought the premise was very intriguing, but I do wish it had been a little longer and that we saw a bit more of the wolf pack dynamics, as well the relationship between Diana and the prince and how that developed in the aftermath of her leaving home and joining him.

To Catch A Feather (Found in Fife, #1) by R.A. Hutchins

This book has such a tragic opening that really took me by surprise. I totally thought the first romance was the main one, but it’s not (this isn’t really a spoiler, though, as all this happens in the prologue). At the start, the main character Kate is close to losing her fiancé due to spiralling into depression and they’re about to break up when her fiancé suggests they take a holiday rather than break up. She switches meds, feels better, they head to their holiday. And then he dies!! They’re in a car crash that kills him and leaves her with injuries.

The story then jumps ahead five years and Kate’s taking a holiday in the same place she and her fiancé were headed when he died. She’s struggling with taking too many painkillers and relying on them too much and wants to use the holiday as a chance to take a breath. She’s still grieving for her late fiancé and isn’t doing well. Her turmoil and troubles catch the attention of a kind (if a bit intrusive and meddling) elderly lady and a local café owner. Worried about her after finding her passed out from taking too many pills, the pair decide to keep an eye on Kate while she’s in town, and she and Cal (Cameron) quickly grow closer.

Everything moves very quickly between Kate and Cal, and I did wonder about his judgement when him took her home to stay with him when he has a child in the house and has only known Kate for about an hour at that point, but the author shows a lot of empathy and grace towards the characters, who all offer to help and support each other and use their shared experiences and their faith to heal from their traumas.

Thank you to the author for a review copy.

Serge the Snail Without A Shell by Harriet Alida Lye and Rosa Rankin-Gee

Ooooooooooh this was just absolutely precious! The artwork is absolutely adorable and the message is wholesome. I also quite liked the rhymes! Overall a sweet and fun little book!

Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy.

Treasure Chest of Kisses: I Am Made of Love by Sky Eiko

Love refills on its own, so you’ll always have plenty.

This is absolutely precious and wholesome. The artwork is great and the rhymes are well done, with a lovely message!

Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy.

The Only Poetry I Will Ever Write by Tonya Moore

I was wanting
something harder;
than that which lies within
the primitive dark

I really enjoyed this collection of poetry!!

The Blue Muse by S.J. Lomas

Who write poems about the convulsing glory of the nation, shaking their heads in dismay, but can’t think up a way to save it.

A collection of poetry filled with imagery, observation and commentary. I particularly liked the last section. It reminded me a lot of the style of Howl.

The Sparkly Bun by Keith Stoeckeler 

I thought this was pretty cute overall, although I’m not sure I totally got the message. I didn’t really understand why they were wearing sparkly buns or why she was wearing the same one over and over. Like, at first I thought they *were* hamburgers, but then they’re just wearing them? But they also wear bathrobes? So why wear a hamburger? I just didn’t understand the backstory, lmao. I did like the message of individuality and doing your own thing, but it also just felt a little incomplete/unexplained.

Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy.

Milk & Mocha: Our Little Happiness by Melani Sie

An absolutely adorable, wholesome, cute, feel-good collection of Milk and Mocha’s domestic adventures and the joy found in the little moments.

Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy.

Blood Oath #1 by Rob Hart, Alex Segura, Heather Antos, Joe Eisma, Hilary Jenkins

Oooh 1920s and vampires! A very intense opener. Curious where it leads.

The Panic #2: Grave by Neil Kleid, Mariah McCourt, Andrea Mutti

I was a little confused by the narrative in this one, but overall I’m intrigued enough to find out where it’s headed. I want to know what happens to the group of strangers and the siblings, for sure! So onto #3.