Quick Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Once upon a time, Alice’s Grandma wrote a book of creepy fairy tales and then build a house in the woods and shut herself off the world. That alone sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, right? That was purpose because in a lot of ways this is just an elaborate fairy tale dressed up as a novel. Alice and her mother for years moved from place to place, trying to outrun their bad luck that always seemed to follow them because of course they would be cursed. Then they finally settled down and well Alice’s mom got kidnapped and now Alice has to find her but she needs help from classmate and super fan of her grandmother, Ellery Finch to find her. Her mom’s disappearance has something to do with her Grandmother’s stories but Alice has never read them and they are hard to find. I won’t’ say more as to not spoil it but this was fun and kind of creepy. Like a good fairy tale should be because lets be honest. A lot of fairy tales were creepy before they Disney got a hold of them. So yeah, solid book. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Quick Review: Blade Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

The mistake I might have made was read this right after The Priory of the Orange Tree because it’s not that it was bad or anything but the The Priory was such a well written, tightly constructed fantasy that I couldn’t help but compare them. I like this series. I think it’s fun and do love the expanding on the world building but there were times I felt it dragged. I’ve also started to be more drawn to Queen Erida more than Corayne. Corayne is still the brave kinda naive girl she was in the first. In a lot of ways she is a lot like Erida. They are both women who are living in a man’s world and have to prove themselves. While Corayne has choosen the path that will save the world and others, Erida has choosen the path of glory for herself. Her methods may be questionable but I can’t really fault her reasonings. If she was a King instead of a Queen. No one would question her ambitions or her claim to the throne. It would just be accepted. As wrong as she may be, I can’t help be drawn to her and a little sad that her story takes place so far away from the other main characters that her time is limited. A solid middle novel. It will be interesting to see where it goes next.

Quick Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This was delightful. I like a good entertaining fantasy novel. It’s told through the narration of 4 different characters. Ead, a handmaiden from the Priory of the Orange Tree, Tane a dragonrider from the East, Dr. Roos, an alchemist from the West exiled in the east by Queen Sabran and Loth, a Lord from Queen Sabran’s court. They all tell the story of how their known world is set to fight the threat of the Nameless One. A powerful dragon that 1,000 years ago terrorized the world a but was thought to be defeated by a king but was actually defeated by 2 woman. This was a good book. All the narrators were interesting and brought a different world view to what is going on. The one thing that I did find overwhelming was the love story. I had read before starting that it was a sapphic love story, which it is but it’s not the main focal point. I guess when you only have 700 pages to tell your story and 4 narrators, romance has to wait. For fans of fantasy novels like Game of Thrones or the Lord of the Rings. This is right up you alley but better since it’s all one book so no waiting years between novels. That being said, I just read that Samantha Shannon is going to release a prequel early next year. So yes this was great book. You should read it.

Quick Review: Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher

This book is a fairy tale and it is a book of Revenge. Which I kinda like. Marra is the youngest princess from a small country. Her Country is always in precarious position. It has an important port that the two bigger kingdoms on either side of them want to control. Her mom, the Queen makes an arrangement with the Prince in the kingdom to the north. She marries her oldest daughter to him and in return, he promises protection from the kingdom from attacking. Unfortunately, Marra’s sister dies within a year of marrying the prince so the second oldest princess marries the prince and Marra is sent to the convent so she doesn’t marry and have an heir that potential could have a claim on the small kingdom. This is alright with Marra as she never wanted to be in the chess game of being a princess. She likes living in the convent and being herself. She learns useful skills and has the freedom she never had before. That was before her niece dies and she realizes how much her sister is suffering in her marriage. Her sister is in a constant state of pregnancy because she is less likely to be abused by the prince when she is pregnant. The prince doesn’t want to risk losing his heir but Marra worries that the constant pregnancies or the prince will kill her sister. She sets out to save her by planning to kill the prince and save her sister but she can’t do it alone. She seeks out a powerful gravewitch who agrees to help if Marra can complete 3 impossible tasks and of course she does. On the way to the North Kingdom, they build a team. A dog made of bones, a former knight, a possessed chicken and fairy godmother. They are all delightful in their own ways. If this ever gets made into a movie. I do hope that Dame Judy Dench plays the gravewitch and Dame Helen Mirren plays the fairy godmother. Anyways, Marra is a girl or no real ambition. She doesn’t want to be a princess and every time she is asked to do anything in a official capacity it chaffs at her but she doesn’t hesitate to what she needs to do save her sister. She also realizes that she can’t do it alone and seeks the help she needs. I think this is a good lesson for all of us. To know that we are not alone and help is available. Even if it is to kill a prince. So this was a fun read. I enjoyed it.

Review: A Little Too Familiar by Lish McBride

This is was like the perfect hug. It was so warm and comforting. Lou (short for Louise) is an Animal Mage who is training for her dream job of pairing people with their familiar animals. Declan is a werewolf who just got out of a relationship and is trying to start over. Unfortunately, he has had some traumatic experiences with Animal Mages in the past so living with one is not ideal. Even if he is immediately attracted to her. I’m not sure what trope this is because it’s not really enemies to lovers since it’s not Lou who hurt him but it’s kind of the closest. Whatever it is I dig it. Declan has some things going on that prevent him from truly understanding his feelings and Lou just doesn’t understand why he has such a severe reaction to her but is willing to give him space. Which is a little hard when you’re roommates. Even more difficult is when Declan’s father and step mother escape from jail and come for him. That would put a temper on anything.

I loved everything about this book. Lou and Declan are the kind of couple you want to root for. Their roommates, Trick and Van perfectly compliment them as the quirky friends. Lou’s family are amazing and all bring color to the novel. What I like about it too is family and the found family dynamic. Lou has a big family filled with with her mom and her other family that she is not related to but helped raised her. It’s kind of complicated but it works. You then have her friends that are just as much apart of her family as the others. Those who was born into and those she chooses is very powerful. This is contrasted with Declan’s family, which was toxic to begin with. He was abused and dealt with so much trauma that left him scarred. When his parents were sent to jail, he and 1 sister were placed in one foster home while his other siblings another. This was for a reason but also meant that Declan lost what little family he had and made it hard him to trust others and let them in. It must be hard for a wolf without a pack. Meeting Lou is a blessing for Declan because not only does he find love but he also gains a family, a pack he has needed his whole life. Like I said, this book just so cozy and wonderful. Romance lovers and paranormal lovers who are looking for a fun and breezy book to read this summer. You can’t go wrong with this one.

Review: Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

Peter Pan is Real. Tinker Bell is Real. Neverland is Real and the Darling Family will be forever connected to it all. Holly Darling is the granddaughter of Wendy Darling, who was made famous when Sir James Barrie took her and brothers story and turned it into a play that we all know. Ever since then the public has been fascinated by the Darling family. About the family, Holly included. Holly has used her name to start a cosmetic company that makes creams and lotion to make you look younger. Life seems perfect but she has a secret. Her daughter has gone missing and this is most distressing for many reasons. 1. She has a rare disease that makes her age rapidly and 2. She’s been in a coma for almost a decade. She has to find her before her father does. Yes, Peter. That Peter.

Holly is not an easy person to like and at times, I did outright hate her. She has made some questionable decisions in her life and it is all coming back to haunt her. She hasn’t had an easy life. The pressures of being a Darling is not easy but she has dealt with a lot of tragedies. Her husband and one of twin sons was killed in a car accident and left her and her other twin son seriously injured. Jack, her son, wasn’t sure he would live. In her grief, she meets and Peter and a few months later Eden is born. It’s close enough to her husband not to raise to many eyebrows as to who the father is but she knows. One day Eden has an accident of her own, she falls from a tree and hits her head. Miraculously, Eden’s blood starts to heal Jack. Holly uses her science background to study Eden’s blood and comes up with a treatment for Jack but it does mean that she has to take blood one from one child in a coma to save the other. I guess it’s easy to judge Holly for her decisions but after thinking about it, would anyone done anything differently? Possibly, I mean she could have been more open with the people in her life instead of keeping so many secrets but I began to understand why. For most of the novel, Holly kept going on as to how dangerous Peter was but there wasn’t much early evidence as to why. She just came off as paranoid and controlling but as the novel went on and we get more glimpses of her past it all starts to make sense. It doesn’t mean, what she did was right but it becomes more understandable.

We also get to meet other familiar characters. Christopher Cooke, a private detective with a hook. Nan, her mother’s housekeeper. Barry, Holly’s right hand man and her cosmetic company. Even Bell herself. It turn out the the line between our world and Neverland isn’t as far as we think. Cooke is also a great romantic lead. He challenges Holly. He sees what so many don’t. That is part of his job as a detective but it’s more than that. Just as there is ore to Peter Pan, Wendy and their story too.

Review: Book of Night by Holly Black

Charlie Hall is a thief and a con artist who is trying to go straight. There isn’t a bad decision that Charlie wouldn’t make but she is trying to make the right one. She used to be in the black market of spells and antiques and shadows. Shadows can be altered. They can be used to grab things the person can’t. They can even have a mind of their own. And they can be stolen. As much as Charlie want’s to leave that world behind and just be a normal bartender with a normal boyfriend and a normal sister. She can’t. An old friend wants her to find her boyfriend and it drags her back into her own life and habits. Forces her to face her past and maybe even discover her future.

I liked this book but I wouldn’t say it will be my favorite Holly Black book. I am also not sure what makes this “Adult fiction” compared to her other novels which have all been YA. It’s not anymore explicit then her previous novels. Maybe a little bit more violent and probably more descriptive in that violence but it’s not any spicier. I would say that her Cruel Prince series had more graphic sex scenes than this one. It did make me wonder as I reading it, What’s the difference beyond the marketing of the book? Anyways, Charlie Hall is a mess of a person but she knows it and is trying to make herself better. I really liked her as a character. She is honest. She knows she is not necessarily a good person. She knows when she is making a bad decision and doesn’t try to excuse it or justify it. Just owns and moves on. Victor her boyfriend has a secret but so does she so she doesn’t push it. There is definitely vulnerability there. She knows that she is not an easy person and has done many bad things so if he is okay with that, who is she to question his own past? Things start to get out of hand, when a she is hired to bring a friend’s boyfriend home after he has run off. It turns out this boyfriend may have stolen something valuable. Something that many people want and are willing to kill for it. The smart thing would be just do the job and get out but Charlie can’t help herself and uses as a chance to settle an old score.

As expected, this book is full of twist and turns. For those who like whodunit or noir novels, this one is for you. I think it’s a standalone novel but there is definitely enough story left for more novels and I do kinda want it to be a series. Let’s hope that it becomes one.

Review: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

What if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother wasn’t a Fairy Godmother? What if she had an even Step-dad instead of an evil Step-mom? What if it’s not a prince at the ball but someone closer to home? What if instead of having a fairy godmother just grant her wish to go to the ball, she makes a deal with a mysterious woman that she can have all she wants with 7 wishes? To put it lightly this is not your typically retelling of Cinderella. At times, It became less a Cinderella story and more of a Faustian retelling. Eleanor or Ella as she is called is forced into service when her Guardian, Mr. Pembroke decides she is not worth spending money. Ella was taken in by his wife when Ella’s mother died and intended to raise her to be a Lady but Mrs. Pembroke died and Mr. Pembroke did not share in his late wife’s wishes for Ella. So she forced to be a servant in her own house. She loves to read and it’s her one comfort to sneak into the library and read about all the places she would have gone to if Mrs. Pembroke had lived. One night, she finds a copy of Faust out and starts to read it. As she is reading it, a mysterious woman appears and offers Ella she can have everything she ever wanted with just 7 wishes. In exchange, she just needs to give up her soul after all the wishes are done. As someone who has read the book before, you would think she would be more careful in making deals but she agrees and as you expect, things do not go as well for Ella as she wished for.

This book became increasing hard to read as it went one. Part of that had to do with the events of the past week and looking at a future where Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned, the situations, Ella and her fellow woman in service face are too close to home. The book begins with Ella’s friend and another maid being dismissed because she is pregnant after being raped by the Mr. Pembroke. Everyone knows the child is his but instead of him taking responsibility for his child, she is the one who is dismissed in disgrace. Another maid, uses her influence over the master of the house to steer him away from her but to her fellow maids to avoid their fates. Throughout the book, Ella has to find ways for her and her friends from being his next victim but with a woman with no status and no money, it’s difficult tightrope to walk. She can’t outright accuse him because it is his word against hers and it would most likely get her fired and out on the streets. So she uses her wishes to try to help her situation but like all things, the wishes don’t go as she plans for them. Someone dies because everything has a price. She tries to find ways to help herself without using the wishes but every time she does, she is blocked. So she makes a wish, thinking this time she has phrased it right that she will get the results she wants. As things spiral more and more out of control, she tries to justify each wish, each decision and how she is not to blame for the outcome. It’s not her fault people died. It’s the mysterious woman who killed them. All she is doing is protecting herself and her friends. She is trying to better her life so she can help others. She can have the love of her life She can have the money that she was to inherited. She is doing nothing wrong. Well, if you are familiar with Faust, then you know how this is going to end and it’s not the fairy tale ending that Cinderella normally receives.

This was a good book. It had a lot of good ideas and liked the Faustian twist on a fairy tale story but maybe I would have liked it better if current events didn’t put into sharp focus that Ella’s Victorian reality is not so far from our own reality.

Review: Gallant by V.E. Schwab

This was a delightful little fairy tale if you can call it that. Olivia Prior is an orphan who grew up in a school that does not understand her or tries too. She is not able to speak but she has a lot to say and will not go unheard. Her father died before she was born and only has a diary of her mother that shows her fall more and more into madness. Throughout it tells her Olivia she will be safe as long as she doesn’t go to Gallant. One day, she gets a letter from her uncle telling her that he has been searching for her for years and it’s time to come home to Gallant. She heads to Gallant in hopes of finding a family that she has always wished for but what she discovered a broken down mansion. The Uncle who invited is dead by a year and all who live there now is the housekeeper, the groundskeeper and her grieving Cousin. The family Prior live in Gallant and they can never leave because they guard the wall between the living and the death. Her arrival is not welcomed but Olivia will not be denied a chance of a home or go back to that school so she does what she can to stay. It’s all delightfully gothic in feel and tone. There is such a mystery around all the characters and makes it so rich. Olivia’s cousin, Matthew is so broken by the loss of his family and the history of his family at Gallant. You just wants to give him a hug because he resigned himself to the burden of his families legacy and wanted to protect them as well. He wants Olivia to leave so she doesn’t have to suffer the fate of the family. Olivia is strong and a little stubborn and goes beyond the wall and discovers all the secrets. I won’t say more as not to spoil it but I can’t say enough good things about this book. It was a quick read and heartbreaking. You can’t help but root for Olivia as she tries to find her place in a family she never knew she had but has always wanted. Your heart will break for Matthew who has lost too much and can only lose more. Please go read it.

Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

I found this on BookTok and I’ll admit I was a little nervous when they were comparing it to the The Magicians because I HATED that book. It’s the worst and I have no idea how people were able to get through 3 books of it but I digress. The Atlas Six does have some things in common. It brings together a bunch of young attractive magical people in one place. This time, it it is an opportunity to join a secret society that controls the Alexandra Library. It turns out it didn’t burn down but has been hidden because the knowledge it contains it too powerful for everyone and it is limited to only the few powerful people. Joining the Alexandra Society not only you get access to the library but also riches, influence and power that few can only imagine. Every 10 years, the society invites 6 people to study but only 5 people get initiated. Libby, Tristan, Callum, Reina, Parisa and Nico are all powerful magicians. In fact, probably the most powerful magicians in the whole world. They are all equally unlikable as they are likable. The book switches between each of their POV’s so we get insight into all of their heads. This works great because we never really get the full picture of what’s going on. At any given time we only get the perspective on who’s ever POV we are in and I don’t think any of them are the most reliable of narrators. Some arguably more reliable than others and that is what makes it interesting. At times I was actively rooting against one person only to change my mind later about them and then rooting against someone else. I knew that, like the characters, I didn’t have all information as to what is really going on in the society but I feel like I started to catch on quicker then most of the characters. There are a lot of twists and turns and pretty interesting reveal at the end. I kinda saw it coming but not in the way it played out. I am super pumped for the sequel to come out later this year.