Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Muse of Nightmares

Title: Muse of Nightmares

Author: Laini Taylor

Performer: Steve West

Length: 15 hr, 54 min

Series: Strange the Dreamer, Book 2

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 2, 2018 by Hachette Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This is a review that is long overdue, considering I finished the book last summer. In summary, a perfect finish to a stunning duology. So imaginative, so masterful. Taylor introduces interesting new character POVs and wraps up the fascinating mystery of Weep with an utterly original conclusion. It’s hard to even describe how I feel about this book because I have never read anything quite like it, which is perhaps why I have taken so long to write any sort of review. I cannot sing it’s praises enough. If you are a lover of fantasy, complex characters, and storylines that connect in surprising ways, READ. THIS. BOOK.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 5 Stars

Contemporary · Fiction · Thriller

The Push

Title: The Push

Author: Ashley Audrain

Page Count: 307

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 5, 2021 by Pamela Dorman Books

Format: Hardcover

Review: This was a unique sort of thriller, and I almost don’t want to label it as such. There is some amount of suspense, but it is of the creeping “glance over your shoulder” variety. What makes this novel stand out in my mind is the narration style. Blythe, who is a writer by trade, is telling her story to her ex-husband, who has lived the same path of events, but has experienced them entirely differently. Blythe is a character I felt myself feeling deep sympathy for as she struggles to settle into motherhood. She does not connect with her first child in the way she hoped for and when she starts observing disturbing behavior, she is immediately dismissed by her husband. This is a woman who has virtually no support network. No friends or family she can turn to. No one to validate her feelings and help her process her trauma. As readers we watch the slow dissolution of her marriage and the unraveling of her sanity. She questions her own words and actions, and develops a deep sense of paranoia that permeates the story. But are her fears valid? Is her daughter really a little sociopath? Or is she imagining things? What makes this story so enthralling is that it is difficult to say. It is clear that Blythe is an unreliable narrator and as an outsider, it’s painful to see the fallout of generational trauma, untreated post-partum depression, and crippling grief. If I were to rate this book on the writing alone, I would give it 4+ stars. I rate it lower because the truth is I really did not enjoy it. Blythe is living a mother’s worst nightmare, and quite frankly, it left me feeling anxious and deeply unsettled.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · LGBTQ+ · Young Adult

The Bone Spindle

Title: The Bone Spindle

Author: Leslie Vedder

Page Count: 416

Series: The Bone Spindle, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 11, 2022 by Razorbill

Format: eBook

Review: This book fits comfortably in the category of “liked it but didn’t love it.” Things I liked: genderbent retelling, treasure hunting, a ghostly prince who isn’t really a ghost. Things I didn’t like: Fi never really grew on me as a character, the relationships between characters just didn’t vibe for me, the “villain” was easy to identify.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 3 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

Wickery duology

Title: Cast in Firelight

Author: Dana Swift

Performers: Priya Aayar & Assaf Cohen

Length: 11 hr, 54 min

Series: Wickery, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 4, 2022 by Listening Library

Format: eAudiobook

Review: The imaginative world that was introduced in this series was a real joy to immerse myself in. So rich in color (literally) and built upon a fascinating magic system. We see many of the stereotypical things associated with wizardry & witchcraft, but they are modified with their own creative spin. For example, the flying brooms….loved what Swift did there. There were certain aspects of the story that seemed a little far fetched, (i.e. why would her future father-in-law be ok with Aadra putting herself in dangerous situations on the reg??), but I was willing to overlook those little details because I enjoyed the rest of the story so much. The “enemies” to lovers and mistaken identity tropes are executed well and the spark between the two characters is fun to watch ignite (can’t help the puns).

The two readers were excellent for the eAudiobook. Priya in particular I could listen to all day. I was eager to start the second book in the duology.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 4 Stars

Title: Bound by Firelight

Author: Dana Swift

Performers: Priya Ayyar & Assaf Cohen

Length: 11 hr, 14 min

Series: Wickery, Book 2

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 18, 2022 by Listening Library

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This sequel did not quite carry the momentum of the first book, but I still enjoyed it. Aadra and Jatin get almost no page time together, and a new character is introduced in Jatin’s POV that I don’t feel was particularly well-written. In fact, I don’t even really understand why the addition of this character was necessary. She added almost nothing of value to the story and the relationships between her and the other characters were confusing.

Aadra’s storyline had potential that I don’t think was fully realized. Her friendship with her cell mate was interesting, and I loved the incorporation of sign language. I don’t think I have ever seen signing described in a fantasy novel like this before, or ever really.

This book wasn’t as tightly written or fast paced as the first in the duology, but it wrapped up nicely and I was satisfied with the ending.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Strange the Dreamer

Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Page Count: 544

Series: Strange the Dreamer, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: March 28, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover

Review: Magnificent title. Unforgettable characters. Staggeringly beautiful prose. This book had me hooked from start to finish. I could not have predicted all the directions this story goes in, as it was all utterly original. Couple that with a poetic writing style and this book had me mesmerized. It’s the type of writing where you want to savor the words, and you re-read sentences just because you like the way they sound. My only regret is that I did not discover this author sooner. Oh and I can’t forget to mention that this book is about a librarian. It makes the story all the more enchanting.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 5 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · New Adult · Paranormal · Romance

The Crown of Gilded Bones

Title: The Crown of Gilded Bones

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Page Count: 645

Series: Blood and Ash, Book 3

Publishing Date/Publisher: April 20, 2021 by Blue Box Press

Format: eBook

Review: The most insane thing about this low rating is that I am actually contemplating reading the next book in the series when it is released. My hopes that this book would be better than A Kingdom and Flesh and Fire were quickly dashed when I realized that this book was basically just an insufferable extension of it’s predecessor. Same cringe worthy dialogue, same smut, same pointless plot filler. So am I glutton for punishment for wanting to continue? Yes. The answer is yes and I will tell you why. Armentrout somehow manages to write 600 pages of barely tolerable storyline and then BAM! She lays an incredible finale on you that leaves you just interested enough to want to see how the rest of the saga plays out. Looks like I’m roped in for at least one more book. Ugh.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire

Title: Kingdom of Flesh and Fire

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Page Count: 637

Series: Blood and Ash, Book 2

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2020 by Blue Box Press

Format: eBook

Review: The first book in this series far exceeded by expectations. Going into this book, I had far more optimism, which was quickly doused. Everything that bothered me about the first book, that I was willing to overlook because the overlying storyline was interesting, is multiplied 1000 fold in this one. The dialogue between Casteel and Poppy is so ridiculous that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe. There are a couple interesting reveals throughout the book, but they are smothered in layers of unnecessary nonsense. Am I continuing forward with the series? Yes, but only because the heart of the story is interesting and I am still curious about Poppy’s heritage.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Little Thieves

Title: Little Thieves

Author: Margaret Owen

Page Count: 512

Series: Little Thieves, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 19, 2021 by Henry Holt & Company

Format: eBook

Review: This is another ARC I am shamefully behind in reviewing, as it was already published 3 months ago. I am not going to lie, I almost cut my losses and DNF’ed this book because I was not enjoying it in the beginning. Sometimes books have slow starts, so I generally read about 25% before making a decision about whether or not I am going to finish it. I passed the 25% mark of this book and just couldn’t get into it, but I decided to persevere and continued plugging forward. I’m glad I did, because about halfway through was a turning point for me. I enjoy fantasy books with a healthy dose of romance, but the romance is generally not the draw for me. This is a rare case where the central romance is what redeemed the story in my eyes. It just felt so real and the sizzling tension that develops between the characters gave me actual butterflies. Something that sets this story apart is that the main characters are “normal” in the sense that there is nothing physically remarkable that sets them apart. They are not beautiful and there is never an illusion that their appearances are anything but plain. The attraction between them grows organically through their interactions, which made it feel all the more real. There is no instalove or mooning over each other’s physical attributes, just pure magnetic chemistry between two people who are equally matched in intellect and wit. For this reason alone, I finally made it to the end of this book and gave it a higher rating than I would have otherwise.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 3 Stars

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Skin of the Sea

Title: Skin of the Sea

Author: Natasha Bowen

Page Count: 336

Series: Skin of the Sea, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: November 9, 2021 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Format: eBook

Review: I am tagging this book as an ARC, because at the time I received it from NetGalley, it had not yet been published. I started it some months ago, and then put it down in favor of other titles. Needless to say, the storyline and characters did not immediately draw me in. I did eventually pick it back up and finish it, and although I started enjoying it more toward the end, it didn’t knock my socks off. The premise behind this retelling of The Little Mermaid is undeniably beautiful. I loved how elements of the original story are interwoven with mythology and history. The story itself, however, was not particularly interesting to me. For readers who enjoy quests fraught with peril and mythical creatures, this story may have a lot of appeal. Alas, I am not that reader. I don’t generally enjoy odysseys because they tend to be more plot driven than character driven. Aside from the main character, Simidele, there is not a lot of character or relationship development. I’m glad that I finished it, but it is unlikely I will read the next book in this series. This book could easily be a standalone, though it looks like the author is working on at least one more title (possibly more).

On a side note, the cover for this book is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, it is the reason I requested an ARC of this title. However, why are her scales not rose gold??? Her scales are described multiple times throughout the novel, and it annoys me when these types of details are neglected. Rant over.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 3 Stars

Fiction · Historical · LGBTQ+ · Young Adult

A Sitting in St. James

Title: A Sitting in St. James

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Performer: Machelle Williams

Length: 13 hr, 21 min

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 25, 2021 by HarperAudio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I admit, when I started this book I was unenthused about it. I would never have picked it up based on it’s description or cover, but it was on a reading list for a committee I am on, so I checked it out anyway. Let me tell you, this book impressed me more than any historical fiction novel I have read in years. It achieved a perfect balance of light tone with dark subject matter that left you feeling the whole gambit of emotion…horror, anxiety, hope, anticipation, shock, and mirth. One minute I would be experiencing stomach churning disgust and the next I would be laughing out loud. This author truly has a gift for writing complex characters. Sometimes you want to root for them, and sometimes you despise them. Be prepared for depictions of abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) and brutal violence. These are not themes to be glossed over during this era of slavery. Cruelty is so intrinsic to the culture that the character’s appear to operate by an entirely different moral compass. Relationships are twisted and shaped by atrocities committed, both large and small.

A truly illuminating read and one that will make you think deeply about the dark corners of our past. Also, do yourself a favor and listen to it in audiobook format. The reader was phenomenal.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 5 Stars