eARC Review – A Midnight Clear

Title: A Midnight Clear

Authors: Sam Hooker, Seven Jane, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison, Dalena Storm, Cassondra Windwalker

Publisher: Black Spot Books

Publication date: November 5th, 2019

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Six stories of not-so-merry Yuletide whimsy from the authors of Black Spot Books. A woman so cold she hardens to ice on a winter’s eve. Risen from his grave before his time, a winter god alters the balance between seasons. A wolf’s holiday season is interrupted by a strange curse. From a murder at the Stanley Hotel to demons of Christmas past, present, and future, and a mad elf and Santa’s Candy Court, the authors of Black Spot Books share their love for winter holidays in this collection of dark winter tales, destined to chill your bones and warm your heart for the Yuletide season.

Review

**Thank you to Black Spot Books, the authors, and Netgalley for providing an ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Written in the format of six short stories, all with a holiday theme or twist, A Midnight Clear brings six authors who reimagine the holiday season – sometimes in less than ideal ways. From Santa’s elves to Satan’s demons, human like wolves to a religious Solstice dilemma, A Midnight Clear questions what would happen if some of our fairy tales and traditions were turned upside down.

A Midnight Clear was a quick and easy read, likely because it was split into short stories. I certainly had my favorite of the stories and one’s I did not like as much – but I won’t bias you, dear reader, towards or against any. The writing in all short stories is well done, and the plots do make you think twice about the holiday season and what it all means. There was go cohesiveness to all the stories as well, which allowed the book to flow well through them.

As we move into the holiday season, anyone who likes to read holiday or Christmas inspired works should pick this up for a quick read.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Gravemaidens

Title: Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1)

Author: Kelly Coon

Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s)

Publication date: October 29th, 2019

416 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. 

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. 

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. 

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

Review

**Thank you to Delacorte Press, Netgalley, and Kelly Coon for providing me an ebook copy of Gravemaidens in exchange for an honest review**

Gravemaidens is the first in a new duology about Kammani, a young woman who is trying to hold her family together after their fall from nobility, her mother’s death, and her father’s subsequent drinking problem. She is holding it all together until her sister, Nanaea is chosen to be a Sacred Maiden, one of three beautiful, young women who are chosen to follow their ruler’s path to the afterlife. Kammani seems to be the only person who does not see dying with the Lugal as a high honor, and is trying to save Nanaea’s life… whether she wants it or not.

What she comes to find out is that she has bigger problems that trying to save her sister. Her city-state of Alu is in danger as an unknown person is trying to kill the Lugal and take over as ruler. Only she can stop, but when she becomes the next target, she must fend for herself and decide who to trust.

Kammani is a STRONG, female character. I love her, and felt for her through the entire book. Nanaea did not deserve her, and frankly her character was wildly irritating and bratty. She is the reason this book dropped a star in my review. All other characters has redeeming qualities and were well described, but I can’t get over how badly Nanaea’s character sucks.

Kelly Coon has created a captivating world and a strong, female character to live in it. I look forward to reading the sequel when it releases in 2020.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – Stealing Home

Title: Stealing Home

Author: Becky Wallace

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Publication date: July 9th, 2019

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Fight for your dreams, even if it means breaking a few rules.

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Russell has life perfectly planned. If she keeps up her hard work, one day she’ll take over the family business: owning the Buckley Beavers, a minor league baseball team, and become one of the only female General Managers in the sport.

But when the newest member of the Beavers, child-phenom Sawyer Campbell, shows up, Ryan’s carefully laid plans are thrown a major curveball. Sawyer is far more charming than the arrogant jocks she usually manages, his ambition rivals her own workaholic nature—and he’s completely out of bounds. Fraternizing is against every rule in the Beaver’s handbook.

Then Ryan’s divorced parents butt heads over the future of the Beavers, and her mom plans to sell her shares to a business group known for relocating teams. If this happens, Ryan’s dreams of becoming GM disappear. In a bid to save her future, she partners with Sawyer to use his star power to draw in sponsors who will keep the team in Buckley. But the more time she spends with him, the more impossible it becomes to play by the Beaver’s rules, and she can’t afford a strikeout on the path to her dreams.

Full count with two outs, Ryan’s one pitch away from losing the whole ball game.

Review

Stealing Home follows main character’s Ryan and Sawyer as they mutually fight for the futures they’ve been working towards their whole lives. Ryan wants nothing more than to be the General Manager of her dad’s minor league baseball team, The Buckley Beavers. She puts all of her spare time and effort into the team. Sawyer is trying to make it big in the MLB to help keep his family’s watermelon farm afloat. When Sawyer is drafted and sent to the Beavers, they have a chance to help each other out, or cause each other to fail in their dreams.

I thought Stealing Home was super cute. I’m a baseball fanatic, have been my whole life, so I adore reading baseball related books. Sawyer and Ryan were so cute together, even when they were trying not to be. They are both stubborn and motivated individuals, which is why they work so well together. The romance is very PG, with some long, lingering glances and heated exchanges.

The supporting characters are the reason I docked this book a star. Ryan’s mom and dad are not great characters (although they get SOME redemption at the end). I really felt bad for Ryan having to deal with them as people. Also, I felt like it was kind of ridiculous that she was 17 and doing all of the grunt work for her dad – like she didn’t have a life. I know it was her choice, but what dad does that?

Overall, this was a very cute, contemporary, sports novel. I enjoyed reading it and read it all in one day. It was fairly light and easy to read. Fans of Jenn Bennett and Brigid Kemmerer should check this one out!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – The Wren Hunt

Title: The Wren Hunt (The Wren Hunt #1)

Author: Mary Watson

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Publication date: February 8th, 2018

432 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.

In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.

Review

There would be consequences, I knew that. There were always consequences, usually teeny tiny consequences that you hardly noticed. But the small things added up over time, until eventually they formed one big thing that could crush you beneath its weight.

Mary watson, the wren hunt

The Wren Hunt is the start of a duology following Wren, a young augur about to take an internship wit a house of judges, in order to try and steal a map from them. Set in Ireland, The Wren Hunt posits two gifted groups; judges and augurs. Judges are able to commune with nature and augurs have different abilities centered around understanding patterns and being able to manipulate the world around them. The two sides are constantly at war, and the judges are winning. Wren must tip the scales back into the augurs favor before it is too late, or does the universe have a different plan in store for her?

Whew, this book was A LOT. I spent most of it very confused, and am actually still pretty confused. The book starts of with Wren being chased through the woods by a group of young judges, which apparently happens every year. Apparently the only reason this occurs is because her name is Wren and they must hunt the Wren. Seriously, already it started off weird. Also, I feel like I never got a good explanation for why this happened EVERY YEAR on the same day. But I digress. The events of the book are confusing.

If you like a book where the characters are likable and have redeeming qualities, this book will not fulfill that desire. Even the seemingly great characters end up being terrible, and the MC is no better. I spent most of the book internally yelling at Wren for her actions, and frankly I did the same for most of the supporting characters as well. In a war between augurs and judges, no one plays fair.

I will say, this book had a magnificent plot twist towards the end that I DID NOT see coming in the slightest. I felt more convinced after that that The Wren Hunt was worth my time reading. I picked it up because I was approved for the sequel, The Wickerlight, on Netgalley and I really do NOT like to DNF books. The twist was able to move this book into a solid 3 star book for me.

Lastly, the cover is gorgeous. Simple. Classic. Fitting. The Wickerlight cover matches in style, if not color. I am a fan of a good, simple cover sometimes. YA books lately have been KILLING it with these amazing, colorful, detailed covers – but sometimes I appreciate sleek and simple. The romance is okay – I’d classify it as a slow burn, lovers to enemies romance trope which is not even in my top five of romance tropes. But hey, if you like those, check this book out!

Overall, a mid range book for me. The writing is beautiful and mysterious (which leads it to be confusing), and I enjoyed that it was set in Ireland.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – These Wicked Waters

Title: These Wicked Waters

Author: Emily Layne

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Publication date: October 22nd, 2019

274 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A centuries-old curse plagues the island of Viaii Nisi and an ancient enemy lurks beneath the depths of the surrounding water.

Annie Mayfield has heard all the stories and rumors about the island that is now home to the brand new Mayfield Villa resort, and she is definitely not psyched about having to spend her summer working there. The island’s name alone—Viaii Nisi, or violent island—is enough to make any sane person seriously reconsider it as a vacation destination. Then there are the mysterious deaths of every previous owner! It’s a history Annie’s mother is quick to shrug off, but when a guest goes missing on opening night, Annie really starts to get the creeps.

And then Annie makes a truly terrifying discovery: ruins filled with bones and one skeleton that seems to be half human and half fish. Intrigued by the strange remains and determined to help find the missing guest, Annie channels her inner Nancy Drew—minus the skirt and pearls, of course—in an attempt to uncover the truth about Viaii Nisi. But that truth is beyond anything she could ever have imagined. With her mother in complete denial and local officials unconcerned, Annie finds she’ll have to face her biggest fears if she’s to attempt to save everyone she loves.

Review

**Thank you to Owl Hollow Press, Netgalley, and Emily Layne for providing me an ebook copy in exchange for an honest review**

These Wicked Waters was not the book I was expecting when I picked it up. I initially thought this was going to be high fantasy, in a magical new world – however, it is fantasy within the realms of reality. This is not a negative for me, just came unexpected in the first few pages.

Annie is our MC, and she is sent to spend her summer on a private island her mom owns (right??) after she pulled a prank at her boarding school. The island is Viaii Nisi, or violent island in Greek. Disturbing rumors abound about this island, and all of the previous owners have drowned to death. Annie gets to the island and when workers and guests start disappearing, she investigates what could be behind the rumors and disappearances…

Lorelai is a two-tailed siren, who has been forbidden by the siren Queen Thessalonike from using her song to interfere with the lung-breathers on the island. She disobeys, and the results cost her what she cared about most.

These Wicked Waters narrated back and forth between Annie and Lorelai. Background information is given slowly over the book, which is generally not the style I prefer. I spent the first half of the book pretty confused with what was going on. The story did pick up after awhile and I ended up enjoying it.

One thing I liked about These Wicked Waters is that it left the possibly of a sequel open. There was an ending that mostly wrapped everything up, but dropped one last bomb on you (a predictable bomb, but still a bomb) and could be the basis of a sequel. Currently, These Wicked Waters is a standalone but hopes for the future!

Fans of The Wicked Deep and The Sea Witch will enjoy this new spin on sirens and an ocean themed novel. Check it out!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – The Throne of the Five Winds

Title: The Throne of the Five Winds (Hostage of Empire #1)

Author: S.C. Emmett

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: October 15th, 2019

704 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Two queens, two concubines, six princes. Innumerable hidden agendas. Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of a vanquished kingdom, must navigate their captors’ treacherous imperial court.

The Emperor’s palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in Zhaon. A hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, the lady Komor Yala has only her wits and her hidden maiden’s blade to protect herself — and her childhood friend Princess Mahara, sacrificed in marriage to the enemy to secure a tenuous peace.

But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.

And then, the Emperor falls ill, and a far bloodier game begins…

The Throne of the Five Winds is the first installment of the Hostage of Empire series, an intricate and ruthless East Asia-inspired epic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and K. Arsenault Rivera.

Review

**Thank you to Orbit, S.C. Emmett, and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Throne of Five Winds is a new Asian inspired Adult Epic Fantasy series that seems to gain inspiration from George R. R. Martin in political intrigue and battles for thrones. You have several nations, however the Empire of Zhaon dominates the novel, with it’s recent acquisition of neighboring land, Khir. In payment to their new overlords, Khir “Great Rider” sends his daughter, Mahara, to marry the Crown Prince of Zhaon. Yala, her best friend, is sent to serve as lady-in-waiting to Mahara. Both girls are very honorable and take their fate in silence.

The Throne of Five Winds has many characters, so it is hard to pin down a “main” character. There is 1 Emperor, 2 Queens, 2 Concubines, 6 Princes, 2 Princesses, Mahara, Yala, etc. It is very difficult, especially in the beginning to keep everyone straight. This is also due to them having traditional and similar Asian names. The chapters are told by different points of view, but aren’t denoted as such like usual, which makes it difficult to follow along as well.

I have many thoughts about this book. For one, the writing if very beautiful and flowery, but overdone for my taste. However, this is on brand for Asian inspired novels as well as Adult Epic Fantasy. There was very little that happened except pointed conversations and some general court intrigue for the first 70% of this book. I like to think of it like chess, where most of it was used to set up the events of the final quarter of the book, which then sets up the next book in the series. However, this got old at points and it was a struggle to keep interest in this book for that reason.

This being said, the last quarter of the book was fairly interesting. I think the second book will be more exciting because of how this one ended (no spoilers!). I did become invested in the characters, even the ones that were meant to create tension and turmoil by being bad. The ending brought this book up in rating for me, which I was happy to have happen.

I suggest The Throne of the Five Winds for fans of Epic Fantasy, Asian inspired stories, and George R. R. Martin. Readers should have good patience and interest in chess game style novels. Whereas this book was not always my cup of tea, I would suggest it for those who enjoy the above.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – Spin the Dawn

Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication date: July 9th, 2019

392 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

Review

“Seize the wind,” I whispered. “Don’t become the kite that never flies.”

Elizabeth lim, spin the dawn

Spin the Dawn follows Maia, the only daughter of a renowned tailor. Her three brothers did not have her talent for tailoring, but women are not allowed to have jobs or run a shop, so she would never be able to fulfill her dream. After her mother dies, her father falls into a great depression and she must keep the shop alive by completing all the work. Her brothers are drafted into the army and she is left alone to run the family. When two of her brothers die at war and the third comes back unable to walk, she knows something must be done. A Crown messenger shows up at the door requiring her father to enter a competition to be the new future Queen’s personal tailor, but he is in no shape to go. Ala Mulan, Maia knows what she must do – she must go in her father’s place and win the competition, or die trying.

Y’all, Mulan was always my favorite Disney movie. It was the first that portrayed Princesses and women as anything but helpless, waiting for a man to come save them. I also used to be obsessed with Project Runway during the early seasons. So when I saw this book billed as Mulan meets Project Runway, I knew I needed to read it – and it did not disappoint. Shoutout to Owlcrate for knowing I needed this and including it in a monthly box.

Maia goes through such a journey during this book to find herself and her worth. She is sent on an impossible quest with a man that will try her every nerve, but also soften every edge. She will give up anything to save her family and those she loves, even if it is from herself. I loved her character.

One thing I will note about this book is that I felt the love story happened too quickly. The trope was enemies to lovers, but the transition went wayyy to quickly in my opinion. I felt it was rushed and really didn’t need to be.

I cannot wait for the sequel, Unravel the Dusk, to be released. I must know what happened to my baby Maia after that ending!!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂