ARC Review: Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Within These Wicked Walls
Author: Lauren Blackwood
Series: Standalone
Genre: Gothic/Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: eARC/Audiobook
Narrators: Nneka Okoye
Length: 9 hours (336 pages)
Publisher: Wednesday Books; Macmillan Audio
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Source: eARC from publisher via Netgalley; audiobook from library
Recommended for fans of: classic Gothic novels
Content Warnings: death, violence, child abuse, physical and emotional abuse, suicidal thoughts

SYNOPSIS

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

MY THOUGHTS

Within These Wicked Walls is described as an Ethiopian-inspired retelling of Jane Eyre. Andromeda is a debtera desperate to prove her skills at exorcising the Evil Eye, but she finds a more sinister challenge than she bargained for when she agrees to cleanse Magnus Rochester’s manor. The magic system, inspired by Ethiopian practices and folklore, was fascinating, and the desert is such a unique setting for a gothic tale. However, while the book has a creepy gothic atmosphere (including some downright chilling, gory scenes) and the story clearly takes some inspiration from Jane Eyre, the story didn’t live up to my expectations for a retelling.

This book is full of strong characters with complicated pasts. The strongest moments of the story explored Andromeda’s relationship with her father figure Jember, as well as Saba. However, The central romance was disappointing. I didn’t particularly like Magnus as a character, and I didn’t understand what Andromeda saw in him, although they did have some entertaining banter and emotional moments.

I just think this book could’ve used a little bit more. At only 336 pages, this fantasy could’ve used a bit more development of the world, romance, and side characters to be a truly effective standalone. However, the writing was very good, and I would pick up future books by this author.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance review copy.

ARC Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: A History of Wild Places
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Series: Standalone
Genre: Mystery / Magical Realism
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: December 7, 2021
Source: publisher via Netgalley
Content Warnings: suicide, hanging, pregnancy, death, infidelity

SYNOPSIS

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

MY THOUGHTS

This book is beautifully written, atmospheric, and eerie. It is mainly a mystery, but it includes touches of magical realism, dystopian, and even mild horror. However, I found the pacing to be so incredibly slow.

The premise of the book is a bit confusing: a man tries to track down a missing woman, but goes missing himself. A couple years later, residents of the isolated community of Pastoral find traces of those missing people, but no one in the community ever saw the people themselves. And they can’t leave because of “rot,” a disease in the surrounding trees that can spread to people. And everyone has secrets. Something was definitely wrong with Pastoral, but it was very unclear what the point of the story was or how all these pieces fit together until well over halfway through the book, making the mystery more frustrating than intriguing.

The short, suspenseful chapters kept me immersed in the story, and the pace finally picked up with some great twists toward the end, but I couldn’t get over my earlier frustrations at the slow beginning and middle of the story. This book was simultaneously trying to do too many things at once and not doing enough.

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

Review: Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Aurora’s End
Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series: The Aurora Cycle #3
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Kim Mai Guest, Johnathan McClain, Lincoln Hoppe, Donnabella Mortel, Jonathan Todd Ross, Erin Spencer, Steve West
Length: 15 hours (512 pages)
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Penguin Random House Audio
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Skyward

SYNOPSIS

The squad you love is out of time. Prepare for the thrilling finale in the epic, best-selling Aurora Cycle series about a band of unlikely heroes who just might be the galaxy’s last hope for survival.

Is this the end?

What happens when you ask a bunch of losers, discipline cases, and misfits to save the galaxy from an ancient evil? The ancient evil wins, of course.
Wait. . . . Not. So. Fast.
When we last saw Squad 312, they working together seamlessly (aka, freaking out) as an intergalactic battle raged and an ancient superweapon threatened to obliterate Earth. Everything went horribly wrong, naturally.
But as it turns out, not all endings are endings, and the te4am has one last chance to rewrite thirs. Maybe two. It’s complicated.
Cue Zila, Fin, and Scarlett (and MAGELLAN!): making friends, making enemies, and making history? Sure, no problem
Cue Tyler, Kal, and Auri: uniting with two of the galaxy’s most hated villains? Um, okay. That, too.
Actually saving the galaxy, though?
Now that will take a miracle.

MY THOUGHTS

What an excellent conclusion to an excellent series. I did not know how these characters were going to make it out alive after the cliffhanger ending of Aurora Burning…and I remained concerned throughout the trippy, time travel adventures of Aurora’s End! This series has so much heart and humor despite the action-packed, life-or-death war for the heart of the galaxy. Squad 312 is one of my all time favorite bookish found families, and I must admit I shed tears a few times in this book.

This series is FANTASTIC on audio. The full cast production complete with sound effects creates a stunningly immersive listening experience. I highly recommend this series for your next YA sci-fi obsession!

Review: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Starsight
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Skyward #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audible Audiobook
Narrator: Suzy Jackson
Length: 14.5 hours (457 pages)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: November 26, 2019
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: The Aurora Cycle

SYNOPSIS

ll her life, Spensa’s dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumors of his cowardice are true—he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.

Spensa is sure that there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars—and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself—and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

MY THOUGHTS

While I thought Skyward was amazing, it was just a prelude to Starsight, which expands the world so much. Spensa and M-Bot venture off her home planet of Detritus. While undercover, she encounters new alien species, a new society, and new villains, and she discovers why the galaxy fears humans so much.

I loved seeing Spensa mature in a new setting and become a leader on a new team, but I missed all of Skyward flight back on Detritus! This book had a very different feel from the first one, but it was still good. I am officially obsessed with this series. This series is full of action, emotions, and just plain fun!

Review: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Skyward
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Skyward #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audible Audiobook
Narrators: Suzy Jackson
Length: 15.5 hours (510 pages)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Aurora Rising, Defy the Stars
Content Warnings: death of parent

SYNOPSIS

Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades.

Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father’s—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.

MY THOUGHTS

Brandon Sanderson has done it again! In Skyward, he creates an extraordinarily creative and immersive science fiction world with a cast of vibrant and lovable characters.

It did take me some time to become fully invested in the story. This felt more like middle grade than YA to me because at the beginning of the book, Spensa is very immature, always blaming other for her problems. I understood why she was like that, but she was really annoying.

However, Spensa matures a lot throughout the book, and by the end I was all in, completely in love with Spensa, M-Bot, and all the members of Skyward flight in their war against mysterious alien oppressors.

Review: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Cloud Searchers
Author & Illustrator: Kazu Kibuishi
Series: Amulet #3
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 203 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Source: Personal collection

SYNOPSIS

An impossible journey with danger at every turn…

Emily, Navin, and their crew of resistance fighters charter an airship and set off in search of the lost city of Cielis. There they hope to find help from the Guardian Council’s powerful Stonekeepers. It’s a mission that Alledia’s survival depends on, and time is running out–Emily’s got to find Cielis before the Elf King finds her.

MY THOUGHTS

It’s been about a year since I read Amulet #2, so I definitely had a few gaps in my memory of this world. I enjoyed this installment. We learn more about the stones and what they can do, as well as new stonekeeper lore. There’s some good character development in this book, but I didn’t think it had as much action as the previous one.

Review: The Inadequate Heir by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Inadequate Heir
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Bridge Kingdom #3
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: New Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Summer Morton & Michael Pauley
Length: 19 hours
Publisher: Audible Original
Release Date: November 18, 2021
Source: Audible library
Recommended for fans of: Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Elise Kova
Content Warnings: violence

SYNOPSIS

Return to the world of The Bridge Kingdom in this sensuous fantasy full of romance and intrigue that is perfect for fans of From Blood and Ash and A Court of Silver Flames.

A soldier raised as heir to an empire, Zarrah is motivated by two truths. The first is that the Veliant family murdered her mother. And the second is that her pursuit of vengeance will put every last one of them in their graves.

The Endless War between Maridrina and Valcotta has raged for generations, leaving thousands of Zarrah’s people dead and countless more orphaned. So when she’s given command of the contested city of Nerastis, Zarrah is prepared to do whatever it takes to destroy the Maridrinian forces who oppose her. And to kill the Veliant prince who leads them.

Yet a chance encounter with an anonymous, and handsome, Maridrinian causes Zarrah to question whether the violence she’s perpetrated is justice or a crime. And as she continues to meet the nameless man each night, she finds common ground – and fiery passion – in his arms.

But when identities are revealed, Zarrah must decide whether to embrace a chance at peace…or march to the drums of war.

MY THOUGHTS

Have I mentioned before that Danielle L. Jensen is one of my favorite authors?? I cannot get enough of the way she writes the BEST angsty, slow burn, forbidden romances, and Keris and Zarrah are no exception. Their romantic tension is TO DIE FOR, and there is more heat in this book than in previous ones!

The Inadequate Heir is set in the world of The Bridge Kingdom with a timeline that overlaps The Traitor Queen, but it always felt fresh. The world building is impressive; Jensen delves deeply into the politics, warfare, and intrigue of each nation, each with a strong cast of characters to love (or love to hate). The writing is so good that I was always on the edge of my seat…even when I already knew what was going to happen from TTQ. And there were plenty of great plot twists that completely took me by surprise.

This books adds so much to an already fantastic series. If you enjoy new adult fantasy romance with depth and drama and you haven’t read TBK yet…what are you waiting for??

Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Book of Life
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 24 hours (561 pages)
Publisher: Viking Adult; Recorded Books
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Source: Library
Content Warnings: rape, torture, child abuse, reference to pregnancy loss

SYNOPSIS

Bringing the magic and suspense of the All Souls Trilogy to a deeply satisfying conclusion, this highly anticipated finale went straight to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. In The Book of Life, Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency.

MY THOUGHTS

Finally, this moderately interesting series comes to an end. I loved the concept and lore of this series, but I was consistently underwhelmed by the plot and characters. I was more invested in the characters by this final book, and it was my favorite of the series because WE FINALLY LEARNED THE SECRETS OF THE MANUSCRIPT! The pacing was still off; the plot would get super focused on one thing, then almost completely drop it to focus on the next thing. This book took some dark and strange turns. I don’t think it’s worth the hype, but I’m glad I finished this series.

November 2021 Wrap Up


In November I finished 18 books, including 4 physical books, 2 ebooks, and 12 audiobooks. Remember how I slacked on audiobooks in October? Not so this month!


PHYSICAL BOOKS

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier ☆☆☆☆☆
Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite edited by Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker ☆☆
The Damned by Renee Ahdieh ☆☆☆
The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi ☆☆☆

EBOOKS

The Seventh Queen [ARC] by Greta Kelly ☆☆☆☆☆
The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan☆☆☆☆

AUDIOBOOKS

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness ☆☆☆
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson ☆☆☆☆.5
Starsight by Brandon Sanderson ☆☆☆☆☆
ReDawn [novella] by Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson ☆☆☆☆☆
Sunreach [novella] by Brandon Sanderson & Janci Patterson ☆☆☆☆☆
Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson ☆☆☆☆☆
Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff ☆☆☆☆☆
Illuminae [reread] by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff ☆☆☆☆☆
The Inadequate Heir by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆☆☆
Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn ☆☆☆
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb ☆☆☆
Mindhunder: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker ☆☆☆


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: 198/100… I officially increased by Goodreads goal to 200

Finish 5 series in progress: 3/5 – I finished The Aurora Cycle, and I made progress on The Beautiful, Amulet, and The Bridge Kingdom (I’m only tracking series I started pre-2021 for this goal)

Read 12 graphic novels: 10/12 – The Last Council

Read 12 books of poetry/verse: 9/12 -none this month… need to read lots of poetry in December!

Read 6 nonfiction books: 4/6 – Mindhunter, and I have one more in progress

Read 3 classics: 5/3

Reread 10 books/series: 10/10 – Illuminae

Host monthly backlist buddy reads: 11/12 – The Damned

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

Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Shadow of Night
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls #2
Genre: Paranormal Romance/ Historical
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 24 hours (584 pages)
Publisher: Viking Adult; Recorded Books
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Twilight, the Elizabethan era
Content Warnings: miscarriage

SYNOPSIS

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

MY THOUGHTS

I think I enjoyed this a bit more than the first book, becoming more invested in the story despite myself. HOWEVER, this book suffers the same slow pace, unnecessarily long lengh, and maddening lack of urgency as the first. Diana and Matthew travel back to 1590 with two very specific goals: find a magic teacher for Diana and find Ashmole 782 in the past. They spend MONTHS making little to no progress toward those goals, instead getting bogged down in the minutiae of 16th century life and acting very irresponsibly for two individuals who are out of time, repeatedly interacting with sovereigns of multiple nations and other significant historical figures instead of keeping a low profile. I enjoyed finally learning more about Diana’s powers, but this book really needed better editing to keep the story focused.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started