Book Review | The Winter Garden by Alexandra Bell

Title: The Winter Garden
Author: Alexandra Bell
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Magical Realism
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

Welcome to the Winter Gardens of Half Moon House. Please do not mishandle the exhibits. (The owners accept no liability for any events that occur, magical or otherwise…)

The Winter Garden open at the stroke of midnight with no great fanfare – after all, this is a time when all virtuous folk should be in bed. But for the few curious souls that brave the opening of its gates what enchantments await.

There is all manner of strange and spectacular flora and fauna collected on her travels by the scandalous Lady Beatrice Sitwell and exhibited for the delight of paying customers. By flickering lamplight, visitors can discover magic fish, spectacular ghost butterflies, and a tiger made of stars.

And for the very brave – and a small extra cost – there is the forest of plum trees, ripening against the snow bearing magical fruit which can tell your fortune – if only you dare take a bite…” (Goodreads)

I remember buying this book from Waterstones because of the edges but not really knowing much about the book. I’m happy to say that it wasn’t a bad buy because I did end up enjoying this one a lot!

One surprising part about this book was the point-of-views. It started off with just one that come from Lady Beatrice but I soon found out that there was another as well, a friend of hers. It was interesting to see the differences between them woman but also the similarities between them as well.

Beatrice had a stutter and it would read as such. I have seen this in a couple other books and always like the inclusivity of it. Beatrice’s family was never happy about it and always wanted to change her. She was strong though and didn’t let her aunt dictate her life when it came to it. The other woman was strong as well because of the abuse she suffered in her marriage. It doesn’t go into details, but it was still so easy to feel for her and her situation. She really persevered though and it was amazing the things she accomplished!

The one big takeaway I got from the two women was that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. This could be said about titles/class, freedom, and the confidence to do what you want as an unmarried woman in that day and age. They at times wanted what the other had and would do anything to change something. It wasn’t without consequences though, more for one than the other. Although, there are definitely reasons to that I cannot say without spoiling things haha. They also did each other wrong at times but still managed to overcome everything laid on them to still have a friendship by the end. In a way they saved each other and it was just a wonderful moment.

The Winter Garden was an interesting theme in the book. It comes and goes as it pleases and helps the women when they need it the most. I loved all of the little details that came with it.

Overall, this was a fantastic book! Once I got going it was hard to stop. I feel like my review will never do it justice because there is so much to say but staying spoiler free is hard! I’d definitely recommend this one if it sounds interesting to you.


First Lines Friday | 5-12-23

Hello Lovely Readers!

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

“In the English countryside there was a small township called Swampshire, comprised of several lovely mansions and one disgusting swamp. This was the home–one of the mansions, not the swamp–of Beatrice Steele.”


The book is….

When a wealthy bachelor drops dead at a ball, a young lady takes on the decidedly improper role of detective in this action-packed debut comedy of manners and murder.

“If you grew up reading Jane Austen and Agatha Christie (or are a fan of Bridgerton and Knives Out), you will adore A Most Agreeable Murder.”–Kate Stayman-London, bestselling author of One to Watch

Feisty, passionate Beatrice Steele has never fit the definition of a true lady, according to the strict code of conduct that reigns in Swampshire, her small English township–she is terrible at needlework, has no musical ability, and her artwork is so bad it frightens people. Nevertheless, she lives a perfectly agreeable life with her marriage-scheming mother, prankster father, and two younger sisters–beautiful Louisa and forgettable Mary. But she harbors a dark secret: She is obsessed with the true crime cases she reads about in the newspaper, even going so far as to try to solve them herself. If anyone in her etiquette-obsessed community found out, she’d be deemed a morbid creep and banished from respectable society forever.

For her family’s sake, she’s vowed to put her obsession behind her. Because eligible bachelor Edmund Croaksworth is set to attend the approaching autumnal ball, and the Steele family hopes that Louisa will steal his heart. If not, Martin Grub, their disgusting cousin, will inherit the family’s estate, and they will be ruined, or even worse, forced to move to mime-infested France. So Beatrice must be on her best behavior…which is made difficult when a disgraced yet alluring detective inexplicably shows up to the ball.

Beatrice is just holding things together when Croaksworth drops dead in the middle of a minuet. As a storm rages outside, the evening descends into a frenzy of panic, fear, and betrayal as it becomes clear they are trapped with a killer. Contending with competitive card games, tricky tonics, and Swampshire’s infamous squelch holes, Beatrice must rise above decorum and decency to pursue justice and her own desires–before anyone else is murdered.” (Goodreads)


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Goodreads Monday | The Judas Blossom by Stephen Aryan

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: The Judas Blossom
Author: Stephen Aryan
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: July 11th, 2023
Publisher: Angry Robot

“An imaginative and sprawling epic fantasy reimagining of the Mongol Empire’s invasion of Persia, following the lives and treacherous journeys of four key figures in the heart of war.

1260, Persia:

Due to the efforts of the great Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire covers a vast portion of the known world. In the shadow of his grandfather, Hulagu Khan, ruler of the Ilkhanate, is determined to create a single empire that covers the entire world. His method? Violence.

His youngest son, Temujin Khan, struggles to find his place in his father’s bloody rule. After another failure, Temujin is given one last chance to prove himself to Hulagu, who is sure there is a great warrior buried deep inside. But there’s something else rippling under the surface… something far more powerful and dangerous than they could ever imagine…

Reduced to the position of one of Hulagu’s many wives, the famed Blue Princess Kokochin is the last of her tribe. Alone and forgotten in a foreign land, Kokochin is unwilling to spend her days seeking out trivial pursuits. Seeking purpose, she finds herself wandering down a path that grants her more power than a wife of the Khan may be allowed.

Kaivon, the Persian rebel who despises the Mongols for the massacre of his people, thirsts for revenge. However, he knows alone he cannot destroy the empire. When given the opportunity to train under the tutelage of Hulagu, Kaivon must put aside his feelings and risk his life for a chance to destroy the empire that aims to conquer the world.

Family and war collide in this thrilling and bloody reimagining of the Mongol Empire’s invasion of Persia.” (Goodreads)


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Book Review | An Offer From a Gentleman (Bridgerton #3) by Julia Quinn

Title: An Offer From a Gentleman (Bridgerton #3)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction / Romance
Publication Date: July 1st, 2001
Publisher: Avon
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

“Will she accept his offer before the clock strikes midnight?

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball—or that “Prince Charming” would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other—except, perhaps this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?” (Goodreads)

I have been slowly working my way through this series and I finally have another one down!

The book is told from Benedict’s and Sophie’s point-of-view. I thought both of them were good characters. I would say I liked Sophie a bit more which is sad because I very much liked Benedict in the tv series. I just felt that he was way too persistent and didn’t understand Sophie’s reasonings but also didn’t really want to either. I’m glad he at least saw the error of his way by the end.

My favorite character was definitely Violet Bridgerton! She is such a nice lady and did everything to make her son understand his choices but also being by his side no matter what. She let Sophie into her family and allowed her to act more than a maid and I just loved how Sophie acted with the family.

The romance was what didn’t work for me. It didn’t feel as fleshed out as the others. I did like that the book felt like a Cinderella retelling with added pizazz.

Overall, this was good but just wasn’t a favorite out of the series.

Book Review | Fatal Throne by Various Authors

Title: Fatal Throne
Author: Candace Fleming, M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, Lisa Ann Sandell
Genre: YA Historical Fiction / Short Stories
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Ember
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The tragic lives of Henry VIII and his six wives are reimagined by seven acclaimed and bestselling authors in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of Wolf Hall and Netflix’s The Crown .

He was King Henry VIII, a charismatic and extravagant ruler obsessed with both his power as king and with siring a male heir.

They were his queens–six ill-fated women, each bound for divorce, or beheading, or death.

Watch spellbound as each of Henry’s wives attempts to survive their unpredictable king and his power-hungry court. See the sword flash as fiery Anne Boleyn is beheaded for adultery. Follow Jane Seymour as she rises from bullied court maiden to beloved queen, only to die after giving birth. Feel Catherine Howard’s terror as old lovers resurface and whisper vicious rumors to Henry’s influential advisors. Experience the heartache of mothers as they lose son after son, heir after heir. 

Told in stirring first-person accounts, Fatal Throne is at once provocative and heartbreaking, an epic tale that is also an intimate look at the royalty of the most perilous times in English history.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been meaning to read this one since I bought it on Book Outlet a couple years ago. I’m glad that my library had an audiobook available for it, especially because each of the main characters (wives and Henry) have a different narrator when it comes to their respective chapter. It was nicely done!

There is a bit of an author’s note in the front that talks about how this book came to be. Although they did their own research for the wives and Henry, it is a work of fiction. I did like how they expanded their stories though and how their life was once they met Henry and until their death. I actually learned quite a bit.

I will say that although this is for teens, it can be descriptive when it comes to the intimacy between Henry and a few of his wives.

Overall, this was an enjoyable audiobook. I’d definitely recommend it if you like Historical Fiction.

Audiobook Review: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction / Regency Romance
Publication Sate: January 5th, 2000
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable. Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar. The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…” (Goodreads)

Ever since finishing up the first two seasons of Bridgerton it made me want to try reading regency romance. I know. Who am I? A subgenre I had sworn off, lol. I’ll be honest, it was hard to not compare it to the show. There were some things the show did better and others the book did. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it though.

The book is told from a third-person narrative which I think fits the book just fine. I liked being in Simon and Daphne’s head to understand how they were feeling towards one another from beginning to end. Sure, their romance is very fast paced and maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t watched the show but I still binged through the audiobook.

There isn’t a lot of drama in the book like there is in the show. I can understand why they added it, as well as more character development from the minor characters, because they definitely needed more in the book. Personally, I liked Anthony more in the book. He was very comical when it came to his sister and Simon. The start of their “romantic” intensions was much different and I think I liked how it played out in the book more. Colin was also another favorite. I do wish there was more from Eloise though.

Even though this was very simplistic, I still enjoyed what it had to offer. The narration was very nice and like I said above, I binged it in less than a days time. It was just what I needed after reading a lot of fantasy.

Random Thoughts: Bridgerton Season 1 and 2

Hello Lovely Readers!

After telling myself I wouldn’t watch it because Historical Fiction isn’t for me, here I am. What a joke that was because from the first episode I was hooked! This made my sister quite happy since she has been telling me to watch it since it first came out. She had someone to finally talk about it with.

I will try to keep this review of both seasons spoiler-free. If I can’t for some reason then I will be sure to let you know that a spoiler is ahead!

I absolutely adored season one! There is nothing I didn’t like about it. It sets up the characters nicely and I enjoyed seeing where their story arcs went. The only character I probably disliked the most would be Lady Featherington for obvious reasons, ha. She did grow on me a little in season two when it came to protecting her family but she is still something else.

Simon and Daphne got a lot of screen time in season one compared to our couple in season two. I think that is why I liked the first more. You really understood them better and the struggles they faced was all the more real and heartfelt. I cried and laugh way too much! Although I won’t complain much about that because it shows that I did really enjoy it.

I know that many didn’t like love triangle that appeared in season 2 and I will say that it didn’t bother me too much as I kind of saw it from a different perspective. I know my sister wasn’t impressed with it because it veered far from the book. I haven’t read them so I just went in blind. It was probably for the best. I do want to read them eventually.

One thing that I loved was the music! How impressive is it to turn pop songs we already know into classical? It was such a nice touch and has had me listening to the songs since then, lol. It is a nice edition to the Encanto soundtrack.

The settings, costumes, and everything else was just glorious! I’ll take one of each please.

Each season ends on quite the cliffhanger from different plot points and I don’t know how I will survive until season three. I am very curious to see which of the siblings will get their romance, or maybe it will be Penelope. Only time will tell!

Book Review: Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier

Title: Year of the Reaper
Author: Makiia Lucier
Genre: YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publication Date: November 9th, 2021
Publisher: Clarion Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

The past never forgets…

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer’s apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas’ title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness.

Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer… one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret—one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war.” (Goodreads)

So, yeah. I loved this one.

I was scared to start this one since I had seen lower rated reviews but was hoping that this would be a gem. And boy, was it! It was one of those where I became enamored by the story from the beginning because the way she writes is amazing.

The book is told from the third person narrative, which is my favorite. It is also a male protagonist that the reader follows and let me just say how wonderful that was. Most of the time in YA Fantasy it is a female protagonist and sometimes we get multiple point-of-views for a female and male, but to just have the male protagonist alone was great. By far one of my favorite characters to read about this year.

Cas has been through a lot since the plague began. He is on a journey home with a new skill and what he left behind isn’t the same anymore. It is easy to feel something for this character. Cas is broken and dealing with PTSD. The last three years of his life haven’t been sunshine and rainbows. It’s been brutally dark. Even though I can’t relate to what he has gone through, I can see how the plague correlates to our own world today and what we have been dealing with for the last couple of years. I wanted to see him rise above his struggles and have a better life. One that he deserved wholeheartedly.

You can use the word resilient when talking about many of the other characters in this book. They want a better world which includes peace between two warring kingdoms and they want to stop the spread of the plague. They accomplish this through many routes and sometimes what you think isn’t always the reality of that action. There is a mystery surrounding some of the plot and it had me hooked. The mystery was a nice touch to this already impressive plot. I got to 60% by bed time and then decided I didn’t need sleep so I kept on going. It was too good to put down.

Usually a book like this would be hard for me to like. Standalones can be iffy especially for the fantasy genre. It also isn’t overly complex when it comes to the plot. But the thing is is that the book didn’t need an overly complex plot. It was easy to follow along, had the right amount of suspense, and it’s filled with great characters that you can’t help but want to know more about. Besides, that ending was adorable and I can’t help but root for the bit of romance we got between two of the characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I’m going to talk about it forever so be warned! Now, go read it if you haven’t!

Arc Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Mythology
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: 3 stars

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review.

“In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.” (Goodreads)

Since I’ve liked books by both authors mentioned in the blurb on Goodreads (Katherine Arden and Naomi Novik) I decided I wanted to give this book a try. The blurb for it also sounded promising as well.

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about this book. The use of mythology was refreshing from others I have read as I can’t recall ever reading a book about Jewish Mythology. It was also interesting from a historical perspective as the author blended in Hungarian History. Both of these topics I know nothing of so I can’t comment on them besides from a readers perspective.

In the beginning of the book we are introduced to Évike who is 25 years-old and known as a wolf-girl. She is a pagan to those who don’t share the same beliefs as those in her village and ever year the Woodsmen who work for the king come and take one wolf-girl away. Her mother was taken ten years before and so Évike was raised by the village táltos. Not only has she struggled with that and not knowing her father, she also is barren when it comes to the magic of their gods. I can’t say that I connected with Évike but I did admire her determination and forgiveness. She also remained calm in a lot of situations I wouldn’t have been.

The plot is filled with religion, politics, and can be on the darker side at times. There is a hint of romance but it is very minor and it didn’t really add anything to the story for me. I felt that their progression was quick and then it just died off for angst and inner turmoil from the characters.

The pacing at times can be a bit off and this is probably why I lost interest at times to read.

Overall, this was good. I had my issues with it but I can see many readers liking this one especially if they are a fan of lyrical prose writing.

Mini Book reviews: Found Things #1 and #1 by Paula Brackston


31450585Title: The Little Shop of Found Things (Found Things #1)
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

synopsis header
“A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure, reminiscent of Outlander

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.” (Goodreads)


There were some interesting parts to this, one being the time travel. I thought that was really cool that she could go back and help people just by touching an item.

The romance was pretty underwhelming and I felt like the plot was lacking as well. There just wasn’t enough adventure in my opinion.


43263457._SY475_Title: Secrets of the Chocolate House (Found Things #2)
Author: Paula Brackston
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publication Date: October 22nd, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

synopsis header
The second novel in a bewitching series “brimming with charm and charisma” that will make “fans of Outlander rejoice!” (Woman’s World Magazine)

New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House.

After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.

But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.

While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.

This time she’ll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed?” (Goodreads)


This was definitely better than the first. There was a bit more going on in the romance department but I still think that it could have done with a bit more. The plot was better because there was actually a villain. In the first one it is more about them not being able to practice their religion openly but I liked the idea of this villain and how they have been there all this time. It ended with a bang because of it and now I am very interested in the third book. Overall, there was just more action, suspense, and it did grasp my attention a bit more.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)