Stolen by the Shadow King review

A Review of Stolen by the Shadow King, by Alisha Klapheke

This book had me majorly rooting for its main characters by the end. Since I haven’t read the Kingdom of Lore series before this, it took me a minute to get used to all the characters and their banter. The pacing was also quick, leaving little time to catch up. But Stolen by the Shadow King is one of those books that gave me faith it was going somewhere good, so I strapped in for the ride to the Underworld.

Stolen by the Shadow King cover
The hardcover version of Stolen by the Shadow King

MC Maren’s ability to speak to spirits is heartwarming (not spooky), and it makes her very easy to like. High Shadow King Kynan is gruff at first but an extremely honorable character–like a romantic version of Ned Stark. He proves to be a character I couldn’t help shipping Maren with.

With a complex battle scene so well-written I had a clear picture of everything, plus real chemistry between characters, this is a fun and highly enjoyable read. By the end, I was so glad book two is out now, because I really needed to know what happened next.

My rating:
4/5

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

The Cracked Slipper review

A review of The Cracked Slipper by Stephanie Alexander

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

When the Prince who swept Cinderella (or in this case, Eleanor) off her feet turns out to be a poor match for her, The Cracked Slipper asks the question, what if the man she should’ve danced with at the ball wasn’t the prince? And what if it was too late by the time she realized it?

Since falling for someone else and acting on it is treasonous, Eleanor tries to ignore her feelings for another fellow at court. With her trusty human-like parrot Chou Chou at her side (all the animals are anthropomorphized, including the delightful unicorns), Eleanor swears she’ll forget her actual Mr. Right and be a good wife to Prince Gregory. If only he was interested in being a good husband to her… Thankfully, Eleanor and Gregory’s relationship didn’t go half as dark as I thought it would from the description, and the potential affair never felt tawdry.

This was a well-written book that engaged me, though the plot relied heavily on the forbidden romance in the middle, even as some pleasantly underhanded schemes were afoot. Only a couple of the sinister plots are fully revealed here, leaving the rest to be discovered later in the series, and I wished I’d gotten at least a few more hints of what was to come.

The Cracked Slipper Cover

Overall, the Cracked Slipper is an interesting read with wonderful world-building (again, the unicorns! And I really should mention the witches, too!), with a heroine I can root for. While I wished Eleanor leaned more on logic than dreams of romance at times, maybe that’s the point: love muddies the waters just as much as the lack of it. And after life with the wicked stepmother, who can blame Cinderella for wanting to be loved?

My rating:
4/5

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

The Last Dragon King cover reveal!

It’s cover reveal time once again!

Both the cover and the description of this book caught my eye. The Last Dragon King: Kings of Avalier Book One, by Leia Stone, is available for preorder from Amazon, but releases September 29, 2022. You can also head over to my Instagram page for details about an Amazon gift card giveaway run by Book of Matches Media (rules in my post–ends September 4th, 2022).

The synopsis:

The Dragon King is looking for a wife. 


This news throws the women in my village into a tizzy. King Valdren will be sending out the royal guard to bring women of childbearing age to his castle in Jade City, but only those who carry enough magic to produce an heir for him.

I’m a watered-down human with a mere ten percent dragon magic lineage. I know I won’t be chosen, but for some reason the magic sniffers command me to present myself to the king as a possible wife.

I’m ready to go to Jade City until my mother tells me a terrifying secret. A secret that could get me killed… by the king himself.

The Last Dragon King cover
The gorgeous cover of The Last Dragon King
The Last Dragon King cover
I wonder what the MC's secret will be?

Up next, a review! See you again tomorrow,

-CKB

Indie Author Spotlight: Tessonja Odette

Indie Author Spotlight: Tessonja Odette

As the author of 16 titles and counting, plus a new series of retellings called Entangled with Fae, Tessonja Odette should be on your radar, especially if you loved books like The Cruel Prince or A Court of Thorns and Roses. I adored her first book in The Fair Isle Trilogy (To Carve a Fae Heart…my review can be found here), so I was thrilled to find out her new series ventures back into Faerwyvae.

From what I’ve read of Odette’s work, I’d describe it as crowd pleasing fantasy with a sharp bite. There is romance to be had and swoony moments, but they are hard-won by the protagonist.

A Taste of Poison cover mockup

Tessonja Odette was on my “author TBR” for a while when, for the second time, a book of hers fell in my lap through a Book of Matches Media tour (there’s one happening right now, in fact, for A Taste of Poisonsee my Instagram for giveaway details for a contest through Book of Matches Media, which ends August 28, 2022 at midnight PST). I clawed my way out from my endless TBR pile to read this one. Once I started To Carve a Fae Heart, I wondered what had taken me so long!

While my summer of ARC reading has prevented me from getting more than a chapter into A Taste of Poison, her latest, you can be sure I’ll be returning to Faerwyvae as quickly as possible.

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

The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette

The Crown Plonked Queen review

A review of The Crown Plonked Queen, by Andrew Einspruch

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

How could such a good-natured, funny series have so much to say about grief and not feel like a curve ball? But that’s exactly what The Crown Plonked Queen does, and it’s a more complete, yet still silly story (thanks to town names like Festering Resentment and Eloise’s ever affable sidekick Jerome de Chipmunk) because of it.

The Crown Plonked Queen cover

As Eloise works to solve a couple big mysteries and figures out how to rule, this always heart-filled series takes on issues like self doubt, grief and responsibility when you just aren’t ready for it. It never covers Eloise’s struggles with humor. That seems like a hard line to walk, but the humor always stands in compliment to the plot, even as it heads in a more serious direction. And who wouldn’t love the magical Sparky?

I do feel a bit grumbly about all the ceremonial scenes, but I flew through the final third of the book, turning pages well into the night. After many chapters of me wanting to yell “Figure it out, Eloise!” as she came so close time and again, The Crown Plonked Queen ends with what I’d call a satisfying cliffhanger. Even so, I’m very glad the next book comes out soon.

My rating:
4.5/5

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

Droplets of Magic review

Droplets of Magic review

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

This interesting contemporary fantasy starts out in Zimbabwe, then moves across Africa with serious Indiana Jones vibes–if all parties were witches and Indy was being hunted for his defective gifts. Though Droplets of Magic was book four in the series, I had no issue reading it first, though it’s not a standalone because of plot points that continue on in the series.

Droplets of Magic book cover

A witch whose gifts have been underestimated, MC Kira has been traveling drought-stricken areas, using her unique ability to bring rain to areas most in need. While on the run from the council that would kill her for her gifts, she uses them for good. That alone is a unique premise, but the journey across the African continent with Kira’s childhood love turned vicious gang boss on her heels is a fantastic adventure unlike anything I’d read before.

I didn’t feel the chemistry between Kira and her attractive would-be rescuer, but a line near the very end won me over. The ensemble cast, introduced later, had a memorable earth witch, who has some fun, creative potions up her sleeve, plus a giant dog familiar to round out the cast. This was an exciting fantasy adventure and a swift, action-packed read.

My rating:
4/5

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

To Carve a Fae Heart review

A Review of To Carve a Fae Heart, by Tessonja Odette

Note: I received a copy of this book as part of a Book of Matches Media tour and am leaving an honest and voluntary review.

Love enemies to lovers, or squeal at the thought of a heroine in STEM starring in a fantasy novel? Like The Cruel Prince but wish it was less…cruel? (And no, I’m not talking about The Queen of Nothing!) To Carve a Fae Heart is all that and more.

For me, this book did everything right. King Aspen is proof of how well Tessonja Odette knows her readership. He was the perfect dark and growly fae king, with all the right hints that there was more to him than met the eye. His character hit all the notes a fae king in a (semi) arranged marriage to a human should, the Beast and the handsome prince all in one.

To Carve a Fae Heart Cover

Having a heroine who relies on logic and scientific knowledge dropped into fae lands was also a lot of fun. And I can’t stress how much I appreciate that Evie is a STEM girl! I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and romance, and that familial love (both the comfort and the pain) is so bound into the story, too. Fans of Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince’s An Enchantment of Thorns will also appreciate this one. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next in To Wear a Fae Crown.

My rating:
5/5

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

Heart of Cinders review

A Review of Heart of Cinders, by J. Darlene Everly

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review

I picked up this book looking for a fun, exciting Cinderella retelling with a kick-butt heroine, and that is exactly what I got–plus a pair of touchingly loyal friends and modern Red Carpet-worthy gowns. Heart of Cinders is the story of a steely assassin who finds her heart softening and starts to question what she’s been taught.

Once MC Cinder headed to the palace, this book really picked up and was hard to put down. And what is a fairy tale retelling without a cheeky nod? Cinder’s ladies-in-waiting are Gus and Jacquetta, and it was so fun and lovely to see the friendships developing and see Cinder kick butt in a whole new way, this time as the lady she was meant to be (with knife skills and archery lessons on the side). I rooted for Cinder and her friends at every turn.

Heart of Cinders Book Cover

But the ending of this book! Heart of Cinders ended on the bad kind of cliffhanger, the kind that left me exclaiming “What do you mean it’s done?!” I actually enjoy a well-executed cliffhanger ending, but this one ended in mid-scene. The worst part is it worked and I wish I could grab book two right away. There were enough breadcrumbs along the way to make me extremely curious about where this series will go next, too.

My rating:
4/5

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

A Darkness at the Door review

ReviewADarkness

Note: I received an ARC and am voluntarily leaving an honest review. Triggers for this book include child abduction, violence, execution and torture.

What a ride this book takes you on, and what an amazing arc for Rae! Better still, the outstanding plot points from Thorn return in A Darkness at the Door, in a way that isn’t forced and that I found very satisfying.

I didn’t get the whole “book boyfriends” thing until I read this book and Bren came along. In the early chapters of The Theft of Sunlight, we’re assured Rae will never get a match because of her turned foot and mobility issues. In A Darkness at the Door, Bren frequently laments that Rae is hard to keep up with. She’s a force for sure, because of both her determination and her goodness, and it is fantastic to see a person who sees that falling for her, and vice versa.

Slowly, Rae recaptures every scrap of dignity she lost in The Theft of Sunlight, redefining what it means to be a country girl in the city (hint: it means being more capable and grounded, now that she’s free from the pretenses of palace life). We also see her practice self-acceptance and body positivity, and coming to terms with the benefits of using a cane. In one scene, Rae thanks her body for how far it carries her, including the foot so often referred to as a limitation. She even uses opponents’ ableism against them. The disability representation is exceptional here.

This is an action-packed book with plenty of heart to balance its darkness. I can’t help but rave about the entire series, and the wonderful heights its heroine reaches in this last installment. Because I have the sense of there being so many more stories to tell in Rae’s world, I can only hope we’ll return to Menaiya again someday–or at the very least to wherever Bean is.

My rating:
5/5

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

Paperbacks now available!

Are you as excited as I am? Paperbacks of Girl of Shadow and Glass and Girl of Glass and Fury are now available on Amazon! Order your copies here.

Signed copies should be available later this month, along with series and bookish merch. But more on that later!

For now…Yay!

Cheers,

CKB

Girl of Glass and Fury