Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Rebecca
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Gothic / Romance / Suspense
Audience: Adult
Format: eBook
Length: 449 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release Date: August 1, 1938
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Agatha Christie, Gothic romance, domestic thrillers
Content Warnings: suicide, suicidal thoughts, toxic relationship, outdated language relating to race and mental illness

SYNOPSIS

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.

MY THOUGHTS

I was so excited when my book club picked this for November, because it is truly the perfect fall book. The new Mrs. de Winter finds herself in over her head after a whirlwind romance with the much older Maxim. When they return to his estate at Manderley, she doesn’t know how to interact with the staff, Maxim becomes very distant, and she is constantly haunted by the lingering presence of Maxim’s dead wife Rebecca. (Disclaimer: this is NOT a ghost story)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Gothic vibes, and the writing is so gripping. I found the narrator’s mental state very relatable; she has a vivid imagination and frequently gets lost in thoughts of worst-case-scenarios. The story eventually reaches a twist where it shifts to what feels like a modern domestic thriller; by that point, I couldn’t put it down. And can we talk about how utterly creepy Mrs. Danvers is??

I initially rated this book 4 stars because the beginning is a bit slow and the ending is very abrupt (like you will think that the final pages must be missing). However, now that a couple weeks have passed since I finished, I’ve watched two movie versions (Netflix: bad, Hitchcock: good), and I can’t stop thinking about this story. I can see myself rereading this classic again when the weather is right.

Review: The Afterlife of the Party by Marlene Perez

BOOK STATS

Rating:
Title: The Afterlife of the Party
Author: Marlene Perez
Series: Afterlife #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: sexual assault

SYNOPSIS

The bestselling author of the Dead Is… series is back with a snarky, hilarious take on the vampire romance novel.

When my best friend Skyler told me about this party in the Hollywood Hills, I was less than enthused. As it turned out, my feelings were more than justified. That party ruined my life.

Tansy didn’t even want to go to the party. It’s hard enough living in one of your best friend’s shadows and secretly in love with your other best friend.

And now she’s leaving it a vampire.

Now her best friend Skyler is stuck on the road trip from hell, on tour as a groupie with a literal band of vamps. Tansy sets out with Vaughn, her other BFF turned maybe more, to save Skylar’s life and take down the band. But when they find themselves in the middle of a vampire war, will Tansy be able to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends?

MY THOUGHTS

I thought this would be a fun and cheesy paranormal romance featuring vampires and witches (along the lines of Crave), but it was just not good. The writing was not good. Tansy’s internal monologue was cringey. The romance was very immature. The world and supernatural lore were underdeveloped and confusing. All of the characters were very flat and illogical; they always either overreacted or underreacted to everything. It was quick read, but it just didn’t make sense to me. I almost DNF at about 100 pages, and I probably should have.

Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Little Darlings
Author: Melanie Golding
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Stephanie Racine
Length: 12 hours (312 pages)
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Source: Audible
Recommended for fans of: psychological thrillers, folklore and fairy tales
Content Warnings: childbirth, gaslighting, infidelity

SYNOPSIS

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

MY THOUGHTS

This psychological thriller about a mother who believes her newborn twins are replaced with changelings was absolutely haunting, bordering on horror. I was drawn to this book because of the fairy/folklore influence, but I got more than I bargained for.

The depictions of the trauma of childbirth, the loneliness of new motherhood, a dismissive and unsupportive husband, and Lauren’s growing paranoia were painfully raw and real. It was so hard to read that I set it aside for a week and almost didn’t pick it back up. I usually read thrillers for twisty drama, but this was so sad.

That being said, I am glad I finished this. Lauren’s mental illness was explored with nuance and empathy rather than being reduced to a thriller plot device. The atmosphere was downright eerie, and it often felt like supernatural forces were truly at play (as a fantasy reader, I obviously want to believe).

Review: The Seventh Queen [ARC] by Greta Kelly

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Seventh Queen
Author: Greta Kelly
Series: Warrior Witch #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Source: publisher via Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: Throne of Glass, Air Awakens
Content Warnings: violence, torture, captivity

SYNOPSIS

After the gasp-inducing cliffhanger ending of The Frozen Crown, the exciting conclusion to the epic story of Askia—a warrior, witch, and queen-to-be—as she confronts the monster that stole her throne…and is holding her prisoner to steal her magic.

The Empire of Vishir has lost its ruler, and the fight to save Seravesh from the Roven Empire is looking bleak. Moreover, Askia has been captured by power-hungry Emperor Radovan, who plans on making her his wife simply so he can take her magic as his own, killing her in the process. Aware of his ex-wives’ fates, Askia must find a means of avoiding this doom, not only for the sake of Seravesh, but now for Vishir as well. She must put both nations first and remember Ozura’s advice: you must play the game in order to survive. Askia was born a soldier, but now it’s time to become a spy.

But it’s hard to play a game where the only person who knows the rules wants to kill her.

And time is a factor. The jewel Radovan has put around her neck will pull her power from her in thirty days. Worse, Vishir might not even have that long, as the two heirs to the throne are on the verge of civil war. Without any hope for help from the south, without any access to her magic, alone in a hostile land, Askia is no closer to freeing her people than she was when she fled to Vishir. In the clutches of a madman, the only thing she’s close to is death.

Yet she’d trade her life for a chance to save Seravesh. The problem: she may not have that choice. 

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this new adult fantasy duology. The writing is so good, and Askia is right up there with Aelin for me when it comes to strong female protagonists.

Askia spends a lot of this book as Radovan’s captor, so a lot of the story progresses through planning, plotting, and politicking. Even though there wasn’t much action until the end, I didn’t think the book was slow. I was thoroughly engrossed in this dark fantasy world, and I thought the character development was fantastic. Romance is not a huge part of the story, but the romance followed MY FAVORITE TROPE (I can’t say what it is because spoilers).

This was different from the first book in the series, but I loved them both. My only complaint is that I want more stories in this world! I would love a follow up that takes place 5-10 years later to see how these events play out in the long run.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the gifted eARC.

Review: The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Page

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Ravens
Author: Kass Morgan & Danielle Page
Series: The Ravens #1
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Sophie Amoss
Length: 11 hours (400 pages)
Publisher: Clarion Books; Recorded Books
Release Date: November 3, 2020
Source: Library
Content Warnings: cancer, death

SYNOPSIS

Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches.

For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate—that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet….

When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.

MY THOUGHTS

I loved the premise of this book: a college sorority as a front for a powerful coven of witches to recruit new members, some who do not even know they have magic. Despite the witchcraft and murder, this book portrayed sorority life pretty positively as a place for friendship, belonging, and support. It made me very nostalgic for my own college sorority days.

I liked both of the main characters, Vivi and Scarlett, and the book did a great job of showing how people change and grow into themselves at college. However, the story was a little lackluster for me due to an unnecessary love triangle and some predictable plot twists.

Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Magic Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Series: Practical Magic 0.1
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Magical Realism
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 396 pages
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Practical Magic, Salem Witch Trials
Content Warnings: death, animal death, domestic violence, kidnapping, infidelity

SYNOPSIS

In an unforgettable novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Magic Lessons is a celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.

MY THOUGHTS

I love getting wrapped up in Alice Hoffman’s cozy and hopeful writing where anything seems possible with a bit of practical magic. This tale of the Owens family origin, focusing on Maria’s life and her infamous curse on men who dare to love an Owens woman, is by far my favorite of the series so far. It was a bit darker than the other books due to its historical setting around the Salem Witch Trials, but that Maria’s story even more inspiring.

The story is a slow burn, but so immersive and compelling as Maria learns lessons about life and love and witchcraft. Maria is the kind of flawed character you can’t help but love. She could be stubborn and misguided, but she was also deeply compassionate and smart. Maria experiences true hardships, but she doesn’t let them keep her down. I loved the way the story explored both romantic and family love, and how love is both more complicated and more simple than we often think.

Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback/audiobook
Narrators: Michael Kramer, Kate Reading
Length: 30 hours (753 pages)
Publisher: Tor Books; Books on Tape
Release Date: January 15, 1990
Source: paperback from personal collection; audiobook from library
Recommended for fans of: epic fantasy, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings

SYNOPSIS

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

MY THOUGHTS

As the first book in an epic 14-book fantasy series, this story is understandably a bit slow as it sets up the world, its history, characters, and magic system. This is a classic adventure tale of good versus evil. Even though the plot was slow-moving, it was easy to become engrossed in this story. The characters are very likable, and I enjoyed watching their growth.

I alternated between the paperback and audiobook to help me stay on pace for a buddy read. The narrators did a great job on the audiobook, but I had an easier time processing the story when I read versus listened to it. Going forward with the series, I expect to stick to a combination of audio and ebooks, but mostly audio since there are so many giant books.

This was worth the read, and I look forward to continuing this series and learning more about this world and its characters!

October 2021 Wrap Up


In October I finished 10 books, including 6 physical books and 4 audiobooks. I usually make it through way more audiobooks, but I was more in the mood for podcasts this month!


PHYSICAL BOOKS

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling ☆☆☆☆.5
Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco ☆☆☆☆.5
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan ☆☆☆☆
The Afterlife of the Party by Marlene Perez ☆☆
The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi ☆☆☆
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

AUDIOBOOKS

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness ☆☆☆
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding ☆☆☆.5
The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Page ☆☆☆
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness ☆☆☆


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: 180/100

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

Read 12 graphic novels: 9/12 – The Cloud Searchers

Read 12 books of poetry/verse: 9/12 -none this month

Read 6 nonfiction books: 3/6 – I started one but didn’t finish it this month

Read 3 classics: 4/3

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

Host monthly backlist buddy reads: 10/12 – The Ravens

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

Review: Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Kingdom of the Cursed
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #2
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy/Romance
Audience: New Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: From Blood and Ash

SYNOPSIS

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author of Stalking Jack the Ripper Kerri Maniscalco comes the sizzling, sweepingly romantic sequel to Kingdom of the Wicked!

MY THOUGHTS

I can’t remember the last time a book made me want to stay up late into the night because I couldn’t put it down, but I flew through this hefty book in just a few days. This series transitions from YA to NA in Kingdom of the Cursed, and it gave me all the romance I was missing in the first book. Wrath is prime book boyfriend material.

This book is more character driven than the first, focusing on lingering mysteries surrounding Vittoria’s death and the curse, Emilia and Wrath’s relationship, and world building Hell. The writing is so lush and atmospheric. Looking back, not as much happened plot-wise in this book compared to the first, but it didn’t feel like a filler middle book to me; I was completely absorbed.

I really liked the way a certain reveal was handled. This had a lot of great twists and turns, and so many mysteries that still need answers. Don’t even get me started on that ending. What a tease! I am so excited for book 3 and I think it will be epic.

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls #1
Genre: Fiction/Paranormal Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 24 hours (579 pages)
Publisher: Viking Penguin; Penguin Audio
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Source: Library
Content Warnings: torture, death of parents, panic attacks

SYNOPSIS

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

MY THOUGHTS

This book started off strong with a fascinating premise: the origins of witches, vampire, and daemons may be revealed through a lost alchemical text and genetic biology. However, this book was way too long and desperately needed some better editing. The compelling aspects of the plot were bogged down by tangents on history, alchemy, rare books, and everyday life. There were maybe two scenes in the entire book that I would describe as “exciting,” and even though a sense of urgency increased throughout the book, the slow pace never picked up.

This has been described as “Twilight for adults,” and I thought it was exactly that: hundreds of pages of mundane descriptions, a possessive male vampire with ample red flags, a heroine who loses agency and common sense as the book progresses, rushed marriage, weird attitudes toward sex, and very little action despite a lot of build up.

The audiobook is 24 hours long. It truly drags and put me in a bit of an audio slump where all I wanted to listen to after I finished were podcasts with bite sized stories. I am interested enough in kernels of this story that I think I will read the next book after the odd cliffhanger ending. The blend of history, alchemy, science, magic, and paranormal lore in this book is fascinating, but the storytelling and romance leave something to be desired.