The Cursebound Thief review

A Review of The Cursebound Thief by Megan O'Russell

(The Fracture Pact #1)

Contemporary Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure

fantasy heist, vampires, fantasy creatures, multi-POV

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review.

The Cursebound Thief is advertised as a good pick for Six of Crows fans (you can read about my Kaz Brekker obsession here) and it very much delivered for me! This book is all about suspense and the characters’ personalities. Just watch out for that darn cliffhanger that spoils some of the fun!

Full of snappy banter and extraordinarily well-balanced scenes with several speakers, this magical heist tale is set in the real world in modern times. Though I didn’t have a good sense of some of the characters’ personalities at first, overall they were distinctive and each character had their own way of interacting with the others. The perspectives were also balanced enough that I felt like I got to know everybody, though some secrets still lurked under the surface.

The stakes in The Cursebound Thief (mend the Fracture that seemingly destroyed magic) are set early, and the elaborate plot and road trip had me hooked. I only wish it had ended in a different place, though I guessed the cliffhanger was coming. This was a fun read with a complex world and lovable cast.

Now where is that book two?!

My rating:
The Cursebound Thief Mockup with autumn decorations

The Hacienda review

A review of The Hacienda, by Isabel Canas

May 3, 2022

Horror, Speculative Fiction, Historical Fiction

forbidden romance, ghost story, haunting

This book hit all the right notes for me: historical, horror, ghost story and slow-burn romance. From the very beginning of this story, I wanted main character Beatriz to RUN from that house.

The Hacienda was enjoyable to read and full of lastingly creepy imagery (that scene with the doors slamming!). The romantic aspect was unexpected but almost felt logical, despite the danger. The good characters are oh-so human and sympathetic and the bad…I’ll leave you to figure them out. Note also that the story came to a close in a somewhat unusual place, so expect an open ending that will leave you with a sigh.

I highly recommend this book for spooky season, or a good entertaining scare that (probably) won’t cause you to lose sleep at night, unless you’re up reading late. That being said, I now think twice anytime I see glowing eyes at night (definitely a cat, right?!) or catch an optical illusion in the darkness.

My rating:

Spooky Season Reads

Spooky Season Reads for Halloween

Did you know Halloween is just the start of the spirits rising? In Irish tradition, from which Halloween (aka Oiche Samhain) originated, it was the day that marked the start of the dark half of the year. What we associate with October 31st happened every day for the next 6 months (minus the fun celebratory stuff).

October is a great month for indulging in horror films and spooky reads. But in the spirit (oh, puns!) of that tradition, here are some reads that will keep that spooky feeling going long after Halloween

(Besides my spicy The Legend of Sleepy Hollow retelling, Lord of the Hollow Courtof course! I mean I couldn’t not put in a little self-promo. I’m done now though, I swear!)

Caution: Some content may not be appropriate for all viewers/readers.

  1. The Year of the Witching, by Alexis Hendersen. Don’t go into the woods, Immanuelle! They’re full of witches…and her fate.

  2. The Hacienda, by Isabel Cañas. (review coming soon.) I loved this book and all its classic horror moments. From the time Beatriz arrives at her new home, I wanted to yell at her to run. Something is very, very wrong at the hacienda, and nobody wants to talk about it.

  3. Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho. Delve into the supernatural in this contemporary urban fantasy with an LGBTQ lead and plenty of interruptions from deities–including the main character’s recently deceased grandmother.

  4. Dracula, by Bram Stoker. To me, this is the ultimate horror novel! That ghost ship, though. *shivers* If you haven’t read this one yet, do yourself a favor. It’s also in the public domain, so you can find yourself a free copy!

  5. Conjure Women, by Afia Atakora. From slavery to reconstruction, what people can do to each other is the true horror. There’s also a peculiar child born into the settlement of former slaves in this story that jumps between time periods. There’s something spooky about those woods, and a constant feeling that something terrible is going to happen.

  6. Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Cassiopea Tun just met the Mayan God of Death–and he needs her help, whether she likes it or not. This story has surprising romance and plenty of heart as Cassiopea makes her journey across Mexico.

  7. Frozen Hearts and Death Magic, by Day LeitaoNecromancers, wicked magic users and curses, oh my! This is for those who like a big helping of romance with their spooky reads.

  8. Daughter of Shades, by Sylvia MercedesA venatrix, responsible for evicting demons, strikes out on her own with her wolf familiar, only to be forced to compete for a job and deal with dark magic way beyond her abilities.

  9. For the Wolf, by Hannah WhittenTalk about spooky forests! The Wilderwood is semi-sentient and very magical. It also drinks the blood of those who keep it. With the threat of the trapped, wicked kings below and a character delving into dark magic for both the right and wrong reasons, this one hasplenty of spooky flavor.

  10. Of Roses and Rituals, by S.L. PraterFor fans of steamy romance, this one has a main character with some demons to contend with, literally and figuratively. As Fiona tries to help a cursed doctor keep demons from the mountains, she can’t resist wanting to be closer to him.
Of Roses and Rituals Mockup with fall decor

That’s it for my list! What books do you love to read during spooky season? If you have a recommendation, comment below!

Of Roses and Rituals review

A review of Of Roses and Rituals, by S.L. Prater

Steamy fantasy romance, fantasy retelling; October 24, 2022

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review. This book is for mature readers, with steamy open door romance, and also deals with grief/the death of a child and a fiancé)

I thought this Beauty and the Beast retelling was incredibly well-plotted and an enjoyable read. While it is very (very!) spicy and steamy, author S.L. Prater took the time to show her characters connecting intellectually and emotionally instead of just relying on the fated mates trope. Of Roses and Rituals also has some fun horror elements and surprising depths.

Both Fiona and her love interest, Elias, are dealing with grief. Elias has had time to acknowledge and cope with his, while Fiona has tamped hers down. The treatment of grief here is honest and thoughtful.

Of Roses and Rituals Mockup with fall decor

Of Roses and Rituals also touches on body image, with the message that everyone deserves to be loved and feel attractive. It’s an extreme case, of course (a curse has changed Elias’s body to that of satyr-like beast), but I thought it worked and deepened the characters’ connection. The action parts were also smoothly worked into the plot and pleasantly spooky.

This was a very well-rounded steamy romance and a great addition to the Kriegspiel world.

My rating:

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Married by War review

A review of Married by War, by Sarah K.L. Wilson

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review.

What a beautifully written story, and the darkest in the series so far. Full of grim depictions of war and its effects on those fighting it, Married by War has its Goose Girl moments in the plot and no shortage of heartbreaking scenes. But dog lovers should be careful! My heart still aches when I think back on certain scenes.

The cover of Married by War, surrounded by fall leaves and lights

There were so many wonderfully written lines in the book that I highlighted, most of them full of the heartache of its characters. The romance is born of genuine shared kindness and humanity amidst a lot of darkness, and I very much rooted for the two narrators.

I think it’s not a spoiler at this point to say these are all HEAs in the series, and this one is incredibly hard-won. My heart still aches a little after this one, but it was also so gorgeous, like finding a bit of goodness after wading through dark times.

My rating:

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Of Thorns and Beauty review

Of Thorns and Beauty review graphic

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review.

If you love mystery, a snowy setting and a big brooding love interest in your romantic fantasy, Of Thorns and Beauty is for you. Besides being a Beauty and the Beast retelling, this engaging story has all the elements to keep the pages turning well into the night, which is exactly what I did.

Of Thorns and Beauty Cover

Zaina, the narrator, uses contemporary language, in contrast to the king she marries through a mysterious scheme by her conniving mother-figure. His more old-fashioned language gives the whole kingdom a traditional feel, like she’s stepped back into another era. The atmosphere at the castle, where servants are masked at all times, was one of the best parts for me.

Though this ends on a cliffhanger, I enjoyed reading it all the way through and seeing the slow-burn romance. The push and pull between Einar and Zaina was wonderfully executed, too. I look forward to reading more of this series.

My rating:

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11 Questions with Anastasis Blythe

11 Questions with Anastasis Blythe

With her new book, Guardian of Talons and Snares, debuting just yesterday, prolific Kindle Vella author and romantic fantasy novelist Anastasis Blythe was the perfect person to interview. Known for her romantic stories, her East Asian-inspired fantasy world Zheningai and the rambunctious cats that punctuate her videos on social media, Anastasis has earned the notice of romantasy queen Sylvia Mercedes as well as her many readers. I sent the questions about her new book, her process and what’s next off via email, and Anastasis replied with her usual cheerful and accessible demeanor.

To learn more about this author, visit and read on below!

The mockup cover of Guardians of Talons and Snares with candles, a Kindle and a plush background
Guardian of Talons and Snares (The Zheninghai Chronicles #1), by Anastasis Blythe, began life as a Kindle Vella serial

Guardian of Talons and Snares is your latest release, but you’ve set multiple stories in Zheninghai now. When did you first develop the idea for this setting?

Yes! Originally, almost two years ago now, I was brainstorming a Sleeping Beauty retelling where the main character could leave her body while she slept. That story wound up being the three books that follow Princess Meiling in the middle of the Zheninghai Chronicles (that has almost nothing to do with Sleeping Beauty at this point!) I spent quite a lot of time setting up the world before I wrote a single word of the story, and in the process of trying to understand a prominent character, I ended up with the story of Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses. Then, the more I worked to fill in my understanding of the world, Guardian of Talons and Snares was born. 

Which came first, the characters or the world-building?

In terms of the whole series, the characters of Meiling and Shang (who will be introduced vaguely in this book, and featured as main characters later in the series). But by the time I wrote Guardian, I already had much of the world developed, so for that book, the world came before the characters.

Important question I’ve long wondered about: Is it pronounced Zhe-ning-hai, or Zhe-nin-ghai?

LOL, the most important question! It’s actually pronounced Jen-ing-hai. The “zh” makes a “j” sound. 

You recently announced that you are now a full-time author! First of all, congrats! Second, how has writing becoming your day job changed your process?

Thank you so much!! It’s a dream come true for sure. Writing full time has honestly been wonderful. Most days fly by and it’s hard to tear myself away from my computer to go make dinner (though not every day, mind you! Sometimes I’m dying to be done!). The main thing that it’s changed about my process is that I can keep up with admin things better now and I’m able to make faster progress on manuscripts.

The amount of sleuthing in Guardian of Talons and Snares had my British detective drama-loving senses all a-tingle! How did you handle writing the mystery portions of of the story?

LOL! I’m glad to hear that! It definitely helped that I’d already written a trilogy around the overarching plot featured in Guardian, so I already knew exactly what was going on behind the scenes. The challenge was finding ways for them to discover “clues,” as it were, without revealing everything at once or without it being too easy. I won’t lie: the sections involving the mystery were the ones I rewrote and banged my head against the wall the most over. 

Cover of Blade of Dusk
The recently revealed cover of the forthcoming book in The Zheninghai Chronicles

This book was originally one of your many titles on Kindle Vella. What’s your favorite part of writing in an episodic format?

What’s funny is that I actually don’t love writing in an episodic format! I prefer to fly through a first draft, and writing week by week isn’t as exciting to me. With that said, it’s really nice for difficult drafts because you HAVE to finish that week’s episode or else your readers will be unhappy and you won’t get paid! If I hadn’t been writing in an episodic format, I’m not sure I would have ever finished Guardian. So even though I don’t love writing week by week, I do love releasing stories that way. It’s exciting when you have a particularly juicy episode up your sleeve that you cannot wait to share! I think the episodic format makes every chapter more exciting since you have to wait between them. I love the way it makes me look forward to certain days of the week like, “Ahh! Tomorrow is Monday, which means a new episode of that webtoon or Vella is releasing!”

When I read Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses, I was sure you had martial arts training! How did you write your fight scenes so accurately?

You are too kind! I’d get so beat up if I wandered into any kind of martial arts . . . anything. LOL! Since I have no training, I just watched a LOT of YouTube videos. Both training videos and choreographed fighting scenes. Seriously, we’re talking like over an hour of videos per fight scene. Sometimes I’d watch two hours worth of videos, pausing and rewinding and slowing down, just to write a few paragraphs. Now my husband will randomly send me videos like, “Here’s a good fight scene as inspiration for your novels!” (He’s the best!)

One of my goals is to take jujitsu lessons, though. So maybe someday I’ll have some training!

The romance in GoTaS falls firmly in the enemies to lovers trope—much like the setup of The Assassin Bride. Is this your favorite trope to write?

Actually, not necessarily. I do love writing enemies to lovers, but sometimes I get frustrated when my characters are so SET on being enemies and REFUSE to become lovers. Every time I write an enemies to lovers, I inevitably hit a point where I begin to doubt if they’ll EVER become lovers. I definitely hit that point with Kai and Aranya from Guardian multiple times, and it’s been even worse with Assassin Bride! But I think we’re getting there. 😉

Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses Cover With Background
The author's debut: Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses (Click the image to read my review.)

What other tropes would you love to tackle?

I’m excited to have a few projects ahead of me with “insta-click.” This is DIFFERENT from insta-love, ha! But I just love it when the characters immediately hit it off and are so obviously perfect for each other, even if it takes them time to fall in love.

Ok, this is the part where you finally tell me everything about Bride of the Fae Prince! Is this a new serial coming to Vella?

This might be a new serial, yes. 👀👀👀 I don’t have a release date yet, but I DO have the cover and it is STUNNING. My prettiest cover yet, I think! Here’s a little teaser:

A shy, dutiful human princess. A cunning, vengeful Fae prince.

Will their arranged marriage cost them their hearts . . . or their lives?

Thank you so much for joining me for this interview! I always like to end with a challenge: Tell us a story in 10 words or less!

Whyyyy do you do this to me.

Fine. Here it goes.

I wanted ice cream, so I got some. The end.

Thanks so much for having me, Caitlin! <3

Guardian of Talons and Snares

A review of Guardian of Talons and Snares, by Anastasis Blythe

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review.

Enemies to lovers romance meets a (mostly) cozy mystery in this East Asian-inspired fantasy novel by Anastasis Blythe (Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses). Full of action and a comrade/enemy best described as considerate Loki, the budding romance feels legitimate and the mysteries are thrilling.

Like much of Blythe’s work, Guardian of Talons and Snares began as a Kindle Vella serial. There’s more to come, so don’t expect a tidy ending—and better still, the dance between ultimate morning person Aranya and trickster Kai will keep you guessing throughout the book. From the very first prank Kai plays on her, it’s clear these two have a long way to go. Their developing (and then collapsing) romance is so well done, I can’t wait to read what comes next for them!

The mockup cover of Guardians of Talons and Snares with candles, a Kindle and a plush background

The villains are very villainous, the mysteries are well-plotted and there is political intrigue tied throughout the story. Better still, it’s also the story of a young woman caring for her grandfather, who would do anything to protect him and return to him. The story (and the stakes) really heightens as Aranya and Kai set out on assignments together. I’m really looking forward to see where their multi-layered journey will take them.

My rating:

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The Eastie Threat review

A Review of The Eastie Threat, by Andrew Einspruch

The Eastie Threat (The Western Lands and All That Really Matters #5), by Andrew Einspruch (humorous fantasy; August 18, 2022)

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review.

What a whirlwind this book was! Not only is Eloise still adjusting to her role as queen, but the entirety of The Eastie Threat has tension building under the usual humor and heartfelt moments.

And boy does it work! I had to stop reading before the climax, and I found myself daydreaming about what might happen next. I was that into the story.

The Eastie Threat Cover

There are some really poignant moments in The Eastie Threat, and a lot of my own beliefs about the familiar characters were turned upside-down. We see Eloise learn her mother was a person with flaws, and assert herself in a way that earned many a silent cheer from me, even as it felt she might lose control of her reign at any moment. I think it’s fair to say that none of the primary characters emerged from this book the same way.

This is my favorite book I’ve read in the series yet.

My rating:

To learn more about this author, visit