The Fool and the Sparrow review

A review of The Fool and the Sparrow, by Dana Fox

(Arcana of the Tarot #1)

Steamy romantic fantasy

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review. This book contains graphic love scenes and real-world violence, and is for mature readers only.

The Fool and the Sparrow is anything but ordinary.

Lyrical opening chapters from Kit, the actual Fool in the tarot deck living in the realm of Arcana, collide with the perspective of Thea, a trained assassin on the streets of Las Vegas. It’s amusing and surprising. The scenes in which Thea comes to terms with Kit’s supernatural self are particularly well-executed.

These two are drawn to each other by the universe. Their romance develops quickly and Kit makes Thea feel safe at last. But she also knows that feeling is fleeting: she’s trying to uncover the secret global organization that trained her.

If you like incredibly steamy, graphic love scenes, The Fool and the Sparrow has plenty for you. I felt like the ratio of romantic moments to love scenes was a bit too skewed for me by the end, but that’s my personal taste. (I like a more generous helping of romantic moments.)

Overall, this was a creative and completely different romance with action and tension besides. I read through it quickly!

My rating:
4/5
The Fool and the Sparrow book cover mockup, surrounded by fall leaves, a velvet pumpkin and a shining acorn lantern

Warrior of Blade and Dusk review

A review of Warrior of Blade and Dusk

(The Zheninghai Chronicles #2)

Other books in this series:
Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses (#0)
Guardian of Talons and Snares (#1)

romantic fantasy, Eastern-inspired fantasy, clean romantic fantasy

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

If your favorite parts of Guardian of Talons and Snares were the pursuit on the road and the developing, complicated romance between Aranya and Kai, you will love book two, Warrior of Blade and Dusk, as much as I did.

This was such a fun, exciting and satisfying conclusion. Truly action-packed, it takes the best parts of book one and amplifies them. Kai, for one, has softened a lot, without losing too much of his sparky edge. (Though we do see him requesting snuggles!)

The romance also kicks into high gear on this one. Araya also stays her plucky self, but continues to strengthen mentally. I love that an action and romance-forward story focuses so much on its character’s psychological development.

Though the series continues with the story of Princess Meiling, there were some scenes suggesting interesting storylines to come. I’m really looking forward to it!

My rating:
5/5

Cursed review

A review of Cursed, by Callie Pey

(A novella of The Dryad Chronicles)

Steamy fantasy romance, The Little Mermaid retelling, fantasy novella

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review. This book is a steamy open door fantasy romance for mature readers 18+ only.

It’s so nice to be back in Voreios, a land of mythology and community. It’s also a place where multiple mates are both fated and common, giving us another steamy MMF romance.

What I love most about Callie Pey’s work is the loving spirit each story contains. It keeps all the steam from feeling tawdry, with love scenes that often celebrate the bond. Cursed really captures the joy of finding who you’re meant to be with after wondering if you’d always be alone.

There are also The Little Mermaid-retelling vibes! The undersea world was interesting and made for a great climax to the story. Since this story ties into the Dryad Chronicles, there are some series spoilers, so be forewarned!

I enjoyed reading this novella and getting to know its characters.

My rating:
4.5/5
Cursed, by Callie Pey: A mockup surrounded by leaves and a cinnamon candle

Wish Marked review

A review of Wish Marked, by Lissa Bolts

(Stones & Curses #1)

Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure

slow-burn romance, portal realms, fae, jinn and other fantasy creatures

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

This book was a slam dunk for me! A smart-mouthed, resilient narrator, a magic underworld with dashes of both romantic fantasy and portal fantasy, AND a canine sidekick? Yes, please! I absolutely loved Wish Marked.

Fans of W.R. Gingell’s The City Between series (see my review of Between Jobs) will enjoy this one. Parts of it also reminded me of Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star, plus Holly Black’s The Book of Night (though despite its stakes, Wish Marked manages to be less grim and gritty). This is a smart urban fantasy with interesting, hidden realms and a unique take on jinn and their magic.

One thing to consider: there is one heck of a cliffhanger at the end (the fun kind, though, that teases what the rest of the series will bring). I was thoroughly entertained by this read and have already preordered book two.

My rating:
5/5
Wish Marked cover

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:
4.5/5
The Cursebound Thief Mockup with autumn decorations

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:
4.5/5

To learn more about this author, visit streetwitch.net.

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:
5/5

To learn more about this author, visit sarahklwilson.com.

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:
5/5

To learn more about these authors, visit mahleandmadison.com.

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:
4.5/5

To learn more about this author, visit anastasisblythe.com.