Goodreads Monday | After the Forest by Kell Woods

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday was hosted and created by Lauren’s Page Turners and has now been taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

Title: After the Forest
Author: Kell Woods
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Retelling
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
Publisher: Tor Books

“After the Forest is a dark and enchanting fantasy debut from Kell Woods that explores the repercussions of a childhood filled with magic and a young woman contending with the truth of “happily ever after.”

Ginger. Honey. Cinnamon. Flour.

Twenty years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Their mother and stepmother are long dead, Hans is deeply in debt from gambling, and the countryside lies in ruin, its people starving in the aftermath of a brutal war.

Greta has a secret, the witch’s grimoire, secreted away and whispering in Greta’s ear for the past two decades, and the recipe inside that makes the best gingerbread you’ve ever tasted. As long as she can bake, Greta can keep her small family afloat.

But in a village full of superstition, Greta and her mysteriously addictive gingerbread, not to mention the rumors about her childhood misadventures, is a source of gossip and suspicion.

And now, dark magic is returning to the woods and Greta’s magic—magic she is still trying to understand—may be the only thing that can save her. If it doesn’t kill her first.” (Goodreads)


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Goodreads Monday | Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday was hosted and created by Lauren’s Page Turners and has now been taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

Title: Fourth Wing
Author: Rebecca Yarros
Genre: New Adult Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2023
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Red Tower Books)

Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.” (Goodreads)


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Book Review | Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

Title: Untethered Sky
Author: Fonda Lee
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Novella
Publication Date: April 11th, 2023
Publisher: Tordotcom
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Ester’s family was torn apart when a manticore killed her mother and baby brother, leaving her with nothing but her father’s painful silence and a single, overwhelming need to kill the monsters that took her family.
Ester’s path leads her to the King’s Royal Mews, where the giant rocs of legend are flown to hunt manticores by their brave and dedicated ruhkers. Paired with a fledgling roc named Zahra, Ester finds purpose and acclaim by devoting herself to a calling that demands absolute sacrifice and a creature that will never return her love. The terrifying partnership between woman and roc leads Ester not only on the empire’s most dangerous manticore hunt, but on a journey of perseverance and acceptance.” (Goodreads)

I was very curious to see what this author could write outside her first series. Although I enjoy her writing, I wasn’t really a fan of the plot and so when I saw that she was writing a novella I knew I had to give it a chance.

Her writing is the same as usual and I did enjoy it. I do think that this plot could have been better suited as an actual novel to help flush out Ester. A lot of not great things happen to her but it was hard to feel any emotion towards those twists because I didn’t really know her. I will say that she is very resilient and it shows throughout the book.

The rocs were really cool and I liked learning about them. It makes me wish they were real because I would totally have one.

Overall, this was good. I do wish it had been longer but for a novella it isn’t bad.

Book Review | All the Dark Souls by A.M. Dunnewin

Title: All the Dark Souls
Author: A.M. Dunnewin
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: November 1st, 2022
Publisher: Dark Hour Press, LLC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Joss Brevyn is the last heir in a long line of executioners. Although a woman, the same rules still apply: kill the condemned within three tries, or be tortured and killed. Joss has yet to miss her mark, and even though she spends her free time as a healer, the town views her only as a deathsman. So when she and her assistant, Henrik, stumble upon a beaten man on the way home, both are hesitant to reveal who they really are. The only problem is, so is he.

Aric Kayden has seen better days. After failing to assassinate his last victim, he’s left bleeding on the side of the road until he’s found and taken in by Joss and Henrik, two seemingly innocent locals. Healing from his wounds, Aric is still haunted by the target he didn’t kill, especially by those who paid him. Despite the undeniable attraction between him and Joss, Aric can’t bring himself to tell the truth: that the masked figures who hired him knows where he is, and his original target is the mysterious prisoner who was recently sentenced to death. Forced to uphold the deal, Aric’s only job now is to make sure the execution goes as planned and eliminate whoever intervenes.

Bound by their duties, both Joss and Aric assume this next kill will be easy. But then one of them has a change of heart, sparking a chain reaction that could leave one—or both—of them dead.” (Goodreads)

This was a spur of the moment pick from netgalley and I’m glad it was a “read now” because it was worth it!

The book is told from multiple point-of-views and they come from Joss Brevyn and Aric Kayden. Their job titles and the way they go about doing it may be different, but the end result is the same. Reading about Joss was very interesting. Her life has been hard from family difficulties to the job she must do. There is no way out from being an executioner. This is her job and if she doesn’t want to do it then her only option is to marry one and the tradition of passing down the job remains the same. I don’t know how she does it. She is a very strong woman when others in her family couldn’t be. She also balances out the death with being a healer and maybe her family picked that up to help feel better about what their main focus is.

The way Joss and Aric meet is by pure chance, although for him it was lucky that he did since he needed a healer haha. I liked their small interactions together and felt the little spark between them. Their romance is very, very mild and is really only talked about and not a whole lot actually happens. I do like a slow-burn so it didn’t bother me. I am sure we will get more from them in the sequel (which I have already preordered!). Although I think we will get a lot of banter because things haven’t gone according to plan.

A lot of the characters, besides the main two, are very minor. The only one who isn’t is Henrik who happens to be Joss’s assistant. Not a lot is known about him and we get more bits and pieces as the book progresses. I do very much like him and if something happens to him I will be very sad. He is so loyal to her family.

The plot is well paced and there are quite a few plot twists keep you reading on. It’s also on the shorter side so I finished it in one day! I usually tend to have problems with shorter ones but I feel like I got a lot of information and I wasn’t wanting for more. It’s not as dark as I thought it would be, but it does have to deal with executions and sometimes they don’t go as planned.

Overall, this was a great fantasy! I am very much looking forward to the sequel.

Book Review | The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.” (Goodreads)

Edit: I have finished my reread and still enjoyed it just as much! Even though I knew there would be some harsh things to read about (CW: Rape/Gore/Violence) I didn’t realize how much it would still cause me to cringe.

I don’t usually read much adult fantasy because its hard for me to find ones that I actually enjoy. I have heard mixed reviews for this book but I went with my gut and went for it! It was the best decision because it blew my expectations out of the water and left me needing more.

Rin comes from a troubled past. She is an orphan of war, helps her foster family with their drug business, and now they want to marry her off. She is determined to not make that her fate and starts studying for a test that if she passes will lead her to a military academy. There, she meets some really interesting characters and gets swept away into war, hatred, and power not from this world.

Rin doesn’t want to be like the other girls in her village. She doesn’t want to marry and instead forges her own path. As she becomes a woman, there is talk of her menstruating and a lot of books are doing this which is great because it is a natural function of the body and makes the characters more relatable. Because of her menstruation she also makes a decision which has some consequences later down the road.

One of my favorite characters from this book was Jiang the master of lore at the military academy. He was a bit on the weird/crazy side and did drugs which at times made him hilarious. Although he added comedic relief at times, he was a very important character and tried to ground Rin when her emotions would get the best of her.

The plot was nothing I had imagined and at times I wondered why it was fantasy. There wasn’t much talk of the gods they used to worship or magic in general but as I kept reading it finally appeared and we are introduced to shamans. It was refreshing to see them as there aren’t many books with shamans that I have personally read. There is also political issues and even the social hierarchy were poor is deemed as bad. This book is filled with war and it doesn’t shy from the gruesome reality of it. A times it was hard to read about what the soldiers did to villages and cities but it is supposed to make you uncomfortable and realize that although this is fiction, things that can happen in the real world.

Overall, I loved this book. It is gripping and full of humor, loss, and the tragedies of war. Rin is a strong and emotional character and I can’t wait to see where her story leads in the next book.

Book Review | The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by S.A. Chakraborty

Title: The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: February 28th, 2023
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural.

But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will.

Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there’s more to this job, and the girl’s disappearance, than she was led to believe. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savor just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul.” (Goodreads)

I hadn’t read anything by this author before picking this book up. Although, I had heard great things about her writing. I do have her first series on my tbr, haha. The book, for the most part, was good and I can see why this author has a following.

The book is told from on point-of-view and it comes from Amina al-Sirafi. She is a retired pirate who now takes care of her child and mother. It’s such an interesting change of careers and I like that through the book we get her thoughts on both and can understand the pull of the adventure, but also wanting a good life for her child. Amina is one fierce lady and masks her concerns well! She is a fighter and will do anything to protect those she cares about.

There are quite a few other characters in this book that get a lot of page time. One being her crew. There are three major players to this and each one is brought back into the fold when a kidnapping takes place and they in a way are connected to the girl. Loyalty is a trait that they all have in common. The crew was fun to get to know, but I definitely thought Delila was hilarious with her antics when it comes to alchemy. The villain is also pretty present and he is the perfect guy to hate. There is also a special someone that has a fun relationship with Amina and I hope they continue to make a presence in the trilogy.

The plot is filled with adventures on land and sea, politics, backstabbing, and magic. I will say that it took me a bit to get into and there were some lulls in the story as well that kind of took me out of it. It was definitely much harder to put down once I got past the 50% mark and things started to move rather quickly. I also thought the plot would stretch across the trilogy but it wraps up by the end although she was give a task to complete and I am assuming that is what the other books will be about. Because of it wrapping up, the climatic ending didn’t feel so climatic for me.

My only other complaint is that the writing style was confusing because we are told in the beginning that she is being interviewed about her adventures and someone is writing them down so the dialogue is a bit different here which is fine, but it will jump to that sort of dialogue in the middle of chapters telling about the adventure but the tense and narration changes so suddenly that it can be hard to make sense of while reading. I don’t even know if that makes sense with how I explained it, haha.

Overall, this was a good read. I am curious how the sequel will be and I am sure I will check it out.

Book Review | The Winter of the Witch (The Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

Title: The Winter of the Witch
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.” (Goodreads)

The Winter of the Witch was one of my most anticipated reads for 2019 and it did not disappoint. We are swept back into this magical world right where The Girl in the Tower left off. Vasya is trying to make peace with what happened to Moscow the night before while trying to keep her family safe as an angry mob wants her tried for witchcraft. Katherine Arden’s writing is once again captivating and brings to life this world and the characters we have grown to love.

We find ourselves back at recognizable places such as Moscow and the forest but we also are drawn into new magical worlds that feel like a dream. Her world building is breathtaking and imaginative as always.

New and familiar characters come back for this epic conclusion. Vasya is still growing in the beginning and by the end she is finding her purpose which is satisfying to see. She is always full of real human emotions as Katherine has a way of making each character come to life. I even grew to like Medved, the bear, and I didn’t think that was possible. Many of the characters are met with tough decisions they must make and sometimes those decisions lead to fateful consequences.

This book gave me so many emotions and tears were shed multiple times as well as a few laughs here and there. Although I am sad to see this wonderful world end, The Winter of the Witch is a great ending to a beloved series.

Book Review: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Last Tale of the Flower Bride
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Gothic / Horror
Publication Date: February 14th, 2023
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after–and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.
But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.” (Goodreads)

I don’t think the blurb accurately depicted this one. I also would have liked content warnings before going in. This just wasn’t it for me.

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from the bridegroom and Azure. Personally, I didn’t connect to any of the characters but felt bad for the situations that some of them found themselves in. I also wish there would have been content warnings for Azure’s story because she deals with a lot of predatory advances/behavior from her stepfather. It made for a very uncomfortable read which is what is intended I’m sure but when it comes to that sort of material I need the warnings so I know going in what I am getting.

I also don’t think there is any thing romantic about this book. The relationship between Azure and Indigo is very toxic, even the relationship with the bridegroom is. This can obviously be boiled down to one good reason but that is a spoiler. All of the toxicity and harsh topics just made it very hard to get through the book.

The two things I did like were the narration and the writing style. They are both done very well.

Overall, this one was a miss for me. I feel like it is more magic realism set in a more contemporary setting and with the content of the book I didn’t connect with it.

Book Review | The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden

Title: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2)
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“In The Girl in the Tower, Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, she has only two options left: marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.

But after she prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.” (Goodreads)

Edit: This was a reread and I still enjoyed it a lot!

The Girl in the Tower continues to follow Vasya as she tries to find her place in the world without losing herself in the process. Along the way she finds herself disguised as a boy and helping the Grand Prince of Moscow defend the city.

Honestly, I loved this book more than the first. Katherine Arden is such a wonderful story teller and her characters are always so conscious of their actions and sometimes make horrible decisions which is so real and refreshing. Vasya has grown as a character since The Bear and the Nightingale but still has kept true to herself even when the odds are stacked against her.

The world building, as always, is detailed and the pace of the book is well done. I didn’t want to put it down for anything! I am so glad this series was recommended because it has become one of my favorites. It is great to have books written about other fairy tales than the usual ones. Besides, who doesn’t love Morozko?

Book Review | Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Fae
Publication Date: Janaury 10th, 2023
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.” (Goodreads)

This book wasn’t a bad book but there were just a couple of things that kept me from latching onto it. I do think that this book will invest other readers and I wish it had worked better for me.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Emily Wilde. She is studying faeries and has found herself in a small village to continue out her work. I liked this idea a lot. Usually we see a lot of scholarly people but they aren’t out in the field and it usually doesn’t have to deal with the fae folk. It makes for an interesting premise. Emily is a very secluded woman who knows what she wants. I liked that about her because she was usually ostracized for having poor social skills, ha. I feel like we could have gotten along because of that.

The other characters were fine but I feel like some were just one dimensional and when I thought they would have more to do with the plot they didn’t.

My biggest issue with the book was the writing style. It’s a great idea to write it like scholarly journal entries but it made it very dull and I found myself not wanting to pick the book up. This may not be an issue for some.

Another issue I had was that many of the exciting parts don’t happen until after the halfway point. If I am already dulled by the writing and the pace is slow it’s just a disasterly combo for my reading mood.

I do think that some of the things she learned about the fae folk were cool but some just felt very short with no continuation. I just wish there had been more.

Overall, this was a decent book. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t love it either. I’m sure that it will find its readers though because it is very unique.