Review: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: The Ex Hex
Author: Erin Sterling (Rachel Hawkins)
Genre: Contemporary Romance/ Paranormal
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 308 pages
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Publisher/BiblioLifestyle
Recommended for fans of: small town romances & cozy witches, Practical Magic (the movie)

SYNOPSIS

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

MY THOUGHTS

I swooned for this second chance, small town, witchy rom com (doesn’t that sound like the coziest combination of tropes?). This book offers the perfect blend of magic and romance for October.

Vivi and Rhys had top notch banter, and their romance had the perfect amount of steam without being over the top. I also loved Vivi’s cousin Gwyn and Aunt Elaine! The magic system was simple and straightforward. The setting was so cozy. The plot was a bit superficial, but it was perfectly enjoyable.

I need this book to be a Hallmark-style Halloween movie. Netflix, are you listening?

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted copy.

Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
Series: Dune #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover/ebook
Length: 658 pages
Publisher: ACE
Release Date: June 1, 1965
Source: Hardcover from personal collection, ebook from library
Recommended for fans of: Star Wars, classics

SYNOPSIS

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

MY THOUGHTS

DUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNEEEEE! Dune is a challenging book and I wasn’t always confident that I understood everything, but it’s brilliant and I’m kind of obsessed with it now. The world is so well-conceived with complex religion, politics, culture, and ecology. Even during the slower sections I was intrigued, and I became so invested in the characters. Great take on a Messiah myth. I will definitely continue the series once I give my brain a bit more time to process this.

Review: The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: The Broken Ones
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #0.6
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 9 hours (267 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Source: Audible subscription
Recommended for fans of: The Malediction Trilogy
Content Warnings: miscarriage, fatal disease

SYNOPSIS

Lovers of Romeo and Juliet’s tale of star-crossed romance will be swept away by this breathtaking retelling full of fantasy and magic.

Cursed to the confines of their underground city, an ancient rivalry between the most powerful troll families has reached a fevered pitch. At the heart of it is Pénélope d’Angoulême, a talented artist and the eldest daughter of a power-hungry duke. When Pénélope accidentally destroys her sister’s chance to become queen, her father gives her an ultimatum: find proof that Marc Biron, the right hand to their family’s greatest enemy, is guilty of treason. Or die trying.

The trouble is, she’s in love with him.

Together, Marc and Pénélope must navigate the complex politics and dangerous magic of their world. Powers on all sides are intent on using them as pawns, forcing them to risk everything for a chance at happiness.

Except being together will be the greatest risk of all…

THE BROKEN ONES takes place in the magical world of the USA Today bestselling and Goodreads Choice finalist STOLEN SONGBIRD. A star-crossed romance, THE BROKEN ONES is certain to break the hearts of fans of Holly Black. Readers new to this world may begin here!

MY THOUGHTS

The Broken Ones is a prequel to The Malediction Trilogy about Marc and Penelope’s star-crossed/forbidden romance. According to the author, it can be read as a standalone; however, she recommends reading it after book two as it spoils some things in the main series. On the other hand, the series definitely spoils the events of this book. I read it after book 3.

This book gives us an insider’s perspective of the aristocracy and politics of Trollus. It was interesting to see Tristan as a side character with the spotlight on his cousin Marc. I enjoyed diving deep into this backstory and learning more about the characters’ pasts, but knowing how it would end the whole time took the suspense out of the story, a common problem with this type of spin off book.

Review: Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Warrior Witch
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #3
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 13 hours (395 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Source: Audible subscription

SYNOPSIS

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

MY THOUGHTS

A LOT goes down in this conclusion to the Malediction trilogy. In a war between troll, humans, half-bloods, witches, fae, and a dragon(???), no character is safe. NO ONE.

The story was exciting and fast-paced with high-stakes action sequences and political maneuvering, but when I think back on the story, there are a few plot points that don’t fully add up for me.

The ending was absolutely heartbreaking, and I did not expect this series’ conclusion to make me so emotional! I definitely recommend this series for fans of Danielle L. Jensen who want to see where her writing started.

Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Hidden Huntress
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 16 hours (500 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Source: Audible subscription

SYNOPSIS

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted.

MY THOUGHTS

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as the first one in the series for a couple of reasons: 1) Cecile and Tristan were separated for a big chunk of the book and I missed their romance, and 2) I figured out the main mystery WAYYYYYYYYY before the characters did.

While most of book 1 took place in Trollus, book 2 explores the human city of Trianon, so we get to see more of the world. Cecile must navigate a complicated relationship with her mother while secretly developing her powers of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Tristan deals with politics in Trollus, which are as fraught as ever.

Even though I figured out a major twist, there were still some surprises for me at the end that made me very excited to pick up the next book.

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Stolen Songbird
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 14.5 hours (469 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Source: Audible subscription
Recommended for fans of: Dark Shores, Margaret Rogerson books

SYNOPSIS

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain—time enough for their magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophecy has spoken of a union that will set the trolls free, and when Cécile is stolen away to fulfill it, she enters a world that is both magical and deadly.

Cécile has only one goal after being bonded to the prince of the trolls: escape. Except while awaiting the perfect opportunity, she discovers there is more to the mysterious crown prince than anyone realizes.

As rebellion brews and the political games escalate, Cécile becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes the hope of a people—someone who has the power to change Trollus forever.

MY THOUGHTS

I’m so glad I finally took the time to read one of my favorite author’s first published series! This is more of a traditional YA fantasy than Danielle L. Jensen’s current series, but it had the world building, character development, and emotions I expect from her writing.

This French-inspired fantasy world features the unconventional choice of trolls as the main mythical creature, but don’t let that turn you off! These trolls, cursed to live under the mountain in the city of Trollus, share a lot of lore with classic fae, and the world also includes witches.

Jensen is a queen of writing slow burn romance. I was so here for Cecile and Tristan’s enemies to lovers forced marriage in an attempt to break the curse on trolls. Tristan is the morally gray love interest with a heart of gold that we all know and love. I also picked up on some Beauty & the Beast vibes in this book, but I don’t think it was meant to be a retelling. This book had a few slow moments, but overall it had great scheming and surprises!

ALC Review: Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Under the Whispering Door
Author: T.J. Klune
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kirt Graves
Length: 15 hours (373 pages)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Tor Books
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Content Warnings: death, grief, suicide

SYNOPSIS

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

MY THOUGHTS

T.J. Klune has solidified his place as a new favorite author for me with Under the Whispering Door. Character-driven fantasy is rare, but I can’t get enough of the way he writes complex characters who feel absolutely real and human despite fantastical settings, which function as a backdrop for soul searching and character development. I absolutely loved the found family trope in this book.

Under the Whispering Door is a book about death and life and finding where you belong amidst the chaos. This story explores heavy topics like death, grief, and suicide with depth and nuance. There are some very humorous moments in the story, but it never loses the sense of seriousness and reverence when discussing difficult topics.

The audiobook narrator did a fantastic job conveying appropriate tone and emotions for this story and its characters. This book was absolutely beautiful and gave me all the feels. I laughed, I cried, and I felt like I was part of the main characters’ found family, too.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the ALC.

ARC Review: Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Payback’s a Witch
Author: Lana Harper
Series: The Witches of Thistle Grove #1
Genre: Romance / Paranormal
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: lgbtq+ witchy romances
Content Warnings: sexual harrassment

SYNOPSIS

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

MY THOUGHTS

This is a cute lgbtq+ witchy romance about the power of friendship, family, and going home, set in an idyllic magical town. The beginning of the story reminded me of John Tucker Must Die, with three witches uniting to publicly humiliate the man who wronged them all in Thistle Grove’s upcoming magical Gauntlet that will determine the town’s new leader.

However, this book couldn’t decide if it wanted to be more of a romance or a fantasy adventure, and as a result both aspects fell a bit flat. Emmy and Talia had amazing instant chemistry, but their relationship had an unnecessarily slow build as it kept getting pushed to the side for Gauntlet research. The Gauntlet contests themselves were a bit underwhelming.

I wasn’t a fan of Emmy’s internal conflict throughout the book, and the ending was definitely cliche, but this was a fun spooky book with sweet friendships and spicy romance, and it definitely put me in the mood for fall.

September 2021 Wrap Up


In September I finished 18 books, including 6 physical books and 12 audiobooks.


PHYSICAL BOOKS

One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus ☆☆☆.5
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood ☆☆☆☆☆
Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson ☆☆☆☆
Dune by Frank Herbert ☆☆☆☆☆
Fable by Adrienne Young ☆☆☆
I Wish I Had a Wookiee by Ian Doescher [ARC] ☆☆☆☆☆

AUDIOBOOKS

Deathless Divide by Justine Ireland ☆☆☆☆
The Babysitter: My Summer with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman ☆☆☆
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer ☆☆☆
The Bookbinder’s Daughter [ALC] by Jessica Thorne ☆☆☆
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey ☆☆☆☆
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune ☆☆☆☆☆
Namesake by Adrienne Young ☆☆☆
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆☆
Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆.5
Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆.5
The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆
Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab ☆☆☆☆


2021 READING GOAL PROGRESS

At the beginning of the year, I shared my 2021 reading goals. When I post my wrap up at the end of each month, I also want to reflect on the progress I’m making toward reaching my goals.

Read 100 books: 170/100

Finish 5 series in progress: 2/5 – I did not finish any series I started before 2021, but I made some progress on some

Read 12 graphic novels: 8/12 – none this month

Read 12 books of poetry/verse: 9/12 -I Wish I Had a Wookiee

Read 6 nonfiction books: 3/6 – The Babysitter

Read 3 classics: 4/3

Reread 10 books/series: 9/10 – none this month

Host monthly backlist buddy reads: 9/12 – Dune

How did your month go? What was the best book you read in September?

Review: I Wish I Had a Wookiee by Ian Doescher

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: I Wish I Had a Wookiee: And Other Poems for Our Galaxy
Author: Ian Doescher
Illustrator: Tim Budgen
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Children
Format: Hardcover
Length: 128 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Recommended for fans of: Star Wars

SYNOPSIS

Inspired by the beloved world of Star Wars, this collection of over 75 whimsical and original poems is a celebration of childhood, creativity, imagination, and the early years of Star Wars fandom.

In “My Pet AT-AT,” a ten-year-old dreams of playing hide and seek and fetch with an AT-AT. In “Dad’s Luke Skywalker Figurine,” a child opens their dad’s untouched action figure but, instead of getting into trouble, helps their dad re-discover his own sense of play. In “T-16 Dreams,” a little girl imagines herself flying through the galaxy, the Empire hot on her trail, to help with her real-world fear of flying.

Set in the hearts and minds of young children who love Star Wars, and filled with the characters you know and love, I Wish I Had a Wookiee is the perfect gift for the young Star Wars fan–and the young at heart.

MY THOUGHTS

Shel Silverstein meets a galaxy far, far away in this sweet poetry collection that is perfect for young Star Wars fans and the young at heart.

These playful and heartwarming poems describe young Star Wars fans and the effect the series has on their lives. It also explores themes of family, friendship, confidence, and imagination.

I also loved Tim Budgen’s simple illustrations with pops of color. This book truly captures the magic of Star Wars and its influence on generation of children.

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted copy.