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.

Married by Fate review

A review of Married by Fate, by Jenny Hickman

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

I’d never read a book by Jenny Hickman before, and I’m now a fan! Married by Fate was an awesome enemies to lovers fae romance, with similarities to Tessonja Odette’s To Carve a Fae Heart.

The magic in this story is limited to the far and fits more of a low fantasy model. The character dynamics are so well-executed, and it’s easy to root for the two leads who are drawn to each other despite themselves. There’s even an optional spicy scene offered in a link at the end!

Married by Fate mockup

This a true romance, with no strong external conflict to make up the climax of the book, focusing more on the couple and their relationship as it develops. The writing in Married by Fate was great and the story carefully crafted, and I practically cheered at so many moments.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about the Arranged Marriages of the Fae event, visit arrangedmarriagesofthefae.com.

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

Rise of the Fire Queen review

A review of Rise of the Fire Queen, by Alisha Klapheke

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

The hunkiest brooding king in the Underworld, Kynan, is back with a delightful ensemble cast and his own perspective this time, which was a great addition. Rise of the Fire Queen has some wonderful Voyage of the Dawn Treader vibes, as well as Maren’s quest to escape from a castle.

Rise of the Fire Queen Hardcover
The hardcover version of Rise of the Fire Queen

I thought the writing in the second installment was fantastic. The banter is better developed and well-placed in scenes, the heroes are endearing–and the villain is very, very villainous. This was an entertaining and page-turning read, driven by the reader’s desire to see Kynan and Maren together again.

Have I ever rooted this hard for a book couple? I’m not sure I have! Kynan and Maren are very worthy of this distinction, and the romantic tension is THICK. I thought Rise of the Fire Queen made for a fantastic conclusion to this duology, and is hands down my favorite of the two books.

My rating:
5/5
Rise of the Fire Queen digital cover
Rise of the Fire Queen digital cover

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

Married by Wind review

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

Married by Wind is my definition of cozy fantasy. With a unique take on the tale of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp and djinn, the story is pleasantly familiar as we see two characters on a romantic collision course undertake a dangerous journey through the desert.

I was so pleased to see this series start out with a second chance love story. This made the characters’ feelings very believable despite the brevity of the story; they had three months together to develop feelings before the story even began! Note that the marriage is more of necessity due to circumstances, rather than an arranged one, and you shouldn’t expect the spice you may be familiar with in Angela J. Ford’s other romantic tales.

Married by Wind cover

Another caveat: If you’re expecting fae from this story (as I was, based on the series title), you’ll only encounter any in a roundabout way. Instead, Married by Wind focuses on deities, sacred places and a cursed lamp. I did wish Vinn’s character, who has a long backstory that’s mostly just alluded to, was more fleshed out, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this series, visit arrangedmarriagesofthefae.com.

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

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 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.

How to Write a Successful Series review

A review of How to Write a Successful Series, by Helen B. Scheuerer

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

What a helpful read this turned out to be! At first, I just found advice applicable to me here and there. Then the nitty gritty of series writing kicked in, and I found myself plotting spin-offs and exit strategies–two things I’d never considered before reading How to Write a Successful Series.

Quotes from multiple sources (usually popular authors) start each chapter in this book, plus some notes from author Helen Scheuerer’s own journal where she recorded her publishing journey. These were helpful little morsels that carried me through the slower earlier chapters, which had information suited for stone cold beginners. Still, I found useful bits within the earlier sections here and there. This often came in the form of questions, such as whether your series has enough characters in it, and caveats (don’t cram too much into book one!). I sometimes wished the author elaborated on how to find the answer to the questions she listed, but it was a lot of food for thought regardless.

How to Write a Successful Series cover

Because of the later sections of this book, I’m looking at my series with fresh eyes and a new arsenal of strategies. The two sections I had the most highlights in were “Combatting Series Fatigue” and “Write Nail-Biting Sequels and Later Books.” I also found the Commonly Asked Questions sections helpful. I feel more in command of my series strategy now–including that I now have one!

My rating:
4.5/5

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