Reading Round Up – August

The Secret Commonwealth

Philip Pullman

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2)

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child . . .

The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed.

Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust. 

I was surprised when I read the blurb for this that we didn’t stay with Malcolm’s story, a prequel to His Dark Materials, and instead jumped to events following this series, with a grownup Lyra. Perhaps I should have read His Dark Materials again during this break, but as I’d borrowed this from the library, I decided to read it, regardless.

Listening to this as an audiobook likely helped with my enjoyment of it. Had I been actually reading it, I might have struggled in places where the story meandered. Even when the relevance of the rose oil was revealed, I still couldn’t bring myself to care each time it was mentioned. I didn’t find Malcolm’s feelings for Lyra (and Lyra’s emerging feelings for Malcom) quite as icky as other readers did. Having read about Lyra as a baby and a child, it can be hard to remember that Lyra is now an adult. Once I reminded myself that I know people with this same age gap in their relationship (and at their ages – 21 and 32), I got over the initial uncomfortableness. However, was it necessary for Malcolm to have feelings for Lyra when she was still his student? Couldn’t his feelings be relatively new too?

My biggest gripe with the book, though, was that it didn’t end, it just stopped. There were so many story threads that should have been brought together and weren’t. I know there is supposed to be another book in the trilogy, but that doesn’t mean that The Secret Commonwealth shouldn’t be a complete book by itself. Very unsatisfying.

I went away on a few UK holidays this month, and during this time I found myself turning away from the darker fantasy books I usually choose and to romance. Traditional holiday reads (though, not my usual… I read The Dark Tower on honeymoon… so…)

Anyway, I returned to a series I accidentally jumped into the middle of at the start of the year when I started reading an extract on Facebook. That was the sixth book in The Boys of Jackson Harbor series by Lexi Ryan. So on holiday I read the previous five!

The Wrong Kind of Love

Lexi Ryan

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Wrong Kind of Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor, #1)

From New York Times bestseller Lexi Ryan comes a sexy new romance novel about a runaway bride, a single dad who’s sworn off love, and the kind of family secrets that can threaten to break even the deepest bonds.

You never forget your wedding day. Or the moment your twin sister pukes on your bouquet and confesses she’s pregnant… with your fiancé’s baby.

I wanted to get away, to hide until my heart mended. I found myself in a strange town with a mysterious stranger whose talented mouth and hands almost made me forget it was supposed to be my wedding night.

Afraid to go home to face my broken life, I pretend to be my twin so I can take her job in Jackson Harbor caring for a six-year-old girl. Imagine my surprise when I find out my new boss is my mysterious stranger — Dr. Ethan Jackson.

I never meant for Ethan to discover my secrets. I never meant for them to matter. But the longer I work with him and his sweet daughter, the harder I fall, and the clearer it becomes that I’m not the only one carrying a secret that could tear us apart.

Get ready to fall for the boys of Jackson Harbor in Lexi Ryan’s sexy new contemporary romance series. These books can all be read as standalones, but you’ll enjoy reading them as a series!

This had all the elements of the classic romance that pulled me into this series. A love pulled apart by personal baggage and almost ridiculous circumstance. It’s interesting to see in this book and those that follow how Lexi crafts couples that are ultimately perfect for one another, yet their problems are perfectly matched too. Growing up in foster care, Nic is desperate for family. Ethan is one of six and has a strong family unit that she fits into easily. Lexi also knows exactly the buttons to push to tear relationships apart (which is absolutely perfect in the sixth installment in the series). It’s definitely something I’m paying attention to. A great read.

Straight Up Love

Lexi Ryan

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Straight Up Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor, #2)

From New York Times bestselling author Lexi Ryan comes a sexy new standalone romance about a woman who’d do anything to have a baby and the man who’d do anything to have her…

For my 30th birthday, I’m giving myself the one thing I want most: a baby. Sure, this would be easier if I had a husband—or even a boyfriend—but I refuse to be thwarted by minor details.

When I drunkenly confess my plans to my friends, they convince me to ask Jake Jackson for help. Jake, the best friend who’s been there for me through thick and thin. Jake, who also happens to be smart, funny, ridiculously good looking, and the winner of all the genetic lotteries.

So when Jake takes me up on my request—with the stipulation that we get the job done the old-fashioned way—I’d be a fool to decline.

The only problem? I don’t know if I can separate sex from all the things I feel for this amazing man. If I can’t keep my heart under lock and key, I risk losing the relationship I need the most.

Jake has his own reasons for granting my baby wish. But when I discover his secrets, it could mean the end of us. I have to choose—run or stay and fight for love.

While the previous book focused on Ethan Jackson, this book followed his younger brother, Jake Jackson. It was good to see characters carrying over into the next novels (and have them explained a little better. You can apparently jump into the series wherever, and while this is true, the family dynamics became a lot clearer as I went through the series compared to when I started on book 6).

Unlike the last book, which was farfetched in its premise, this one was almost a little too close to home for me. Female lead Ava and I just had too similar a background. Not everything was the same, of course, but there were certain aspects of her family that mirrored mine, as well as having once been stung by a friend wanting more, as Jake is to Ava. So personally, I didn’t find the same escape in this book as I did with the previous one, though objectively, it was still a good read.

Dirty, Reckless Love

Lexi Ryan

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Dirty, Reckless Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor, #3)

I’m in love with a man who tried to kill me. At least that’s what they tell me . . .

Six weeks ago, paramedics found me unconscious in my apartment. Beaten. Bruised. Hardly breathing. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember the last three years or anything about my life in Jackson Harbor. They tell me my fiancé, Colton McKinley, is on the run for what he did to me. They tell me I’m safer if I stay away. 

I don’t care if my memories ever come back. I want nothing to do with those missing years . . . until a sexy stranger with angry eyes shows up on my doorstep and demands I stop ignoring him. 

Levi Jackson is my fiancé’s best friend, but seeing him sparks something inside me. As the truth unravels in my mind, I know they’re wrong about Colton. My own secrets are far more dangerous than the man I was engaged to.

I return to Jackson Harbor to search for answers and find myself running from a faceless boogeyman and seeking refuge in Levi’s arms. And in his bed. 

I can’t deny my feelings for Levi. But as the pile of lies between us grows, I realize that sometimes the truth can’t set us free. Sometimes, it’s the very thing that can destroy us.

This book took what I said about Ava’s family having a similar dynamic to mine and made that an absolute lie. We now follow Ava’s best friend Ellie and Jake’s younger brother Levi as they attempt to find love in circumstances that went from being farfetched to just too much. Ellie has been seeing Ava’s brother, and is entangled in that family’s business, which includes the father I had seen some similarities to my own… except now the father is some sort of criminal mastermind, paedophile, and rapist. The change is explained by daughter Ava not seeing this side of her father, and while I’m sure my own father has secrets, he’s certainly not this guy!!!

The downside of this novel was that it was a romance trying to be a thriller. I’ve read thrillers, this is not it. Perhaps if I only read romance I might have been gripped by this book, but honestly, to me it fell flat. I guessed every twist, and what should have been the high stakes of the thriller were constantly undermined by the romance, and vice versa. They didn’t work together, they worked against each other. The weakest of the series.

Wrapped In Love

Lexi Ryan

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Wrapped in Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor, #4)

A one-night stand with the boss was never in her plans. Neither was falling in love . . . 

The rumors are true. I am a hot mess with an awful track record at love. Single mom. Down on her luck. Yeah, I’m bad news. 

So if the hardest part of moving back home to Jackson Harbor was going to be people talking? I’d be fine. I’ve kept my chin up through worse than their decade-old gossip. 

I was wrong. The hardest part is resisting my boss. Brayden Jackson is the very picture of tall-dark-and-handsome. And thanks to an ill-advised one-night stand we had seven months ago, I know exactly what I’m missing when I turn him down. Every. Single. Delicious. Inch. 

But I have my son to care for and my job to keep, so I’ll keep on saying no. 

Until my string of bad luck continues, and suddenly my precious four-year old and I find ourselves with nowhere to live. At Christmas, no less. It’s for my son that I accept Brayden’s offer to stay at his place. One by one, my defenses are falling, as fast as I am. If Brayden was smart, he’d run, because it’s only a matter of time before he realizes he deserves better than what a girl like me can offer. 

Unless, for once, my bad luck is leading me exactly where I need to be.

Now we return to the oldest of the Jackson boys, big brother Brayden. He falls for Ava’s step-sister (it’s a small town, so the book says, everyone knows everyone so basically everyone shags everyone). Sadly, Ava’s sister Molly was the victim of the child abuse and rape in the previous book, and while that book had me considering whether to take a break from the series, this book was so well done I launched into the next.

Back on form, each characters insecurities played off the other, making them perfect for one another once they could pull their heads out of their arses (or if Brayden gets his head out of Molly’s you-know-where…). Thumbs up!

Crazy For Your Love

Lexi Ryan

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Crazy for Your Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor, #5)

A family wedding with a fake boyfriend, meddling parents, and an obsessive ex . . . What could go wrong? 

The only thing worse than being single at my sister’s wedding is finding out that my ex will be there too. Not just any ex—the guy everyone expected me to marry, the man I came to Jackson Harbor to escape.

Now I need a date, and fast. Enter Carter Jackson—the firefighter who’s dealing with an unwanted five minutes of fame ever since a shirtless photo of him saving a puppy went viral. He’s warding off propositions left and right, and he needs a fake relationship as much as I do.

Sweet and sexy, Carter is completely off-limits. See, I have a rule. A no heartache rule. Not only is Carter my friend and a known heartbreaker, but his job as a firefighter puts him in danger daily, and that’s something I just can’t handle. 

The commitment between us might be pretend, but the passion all too real. As crazy as it makes me, I have to keep Carter at an arm’s length. Even that might not be enough to spare my heart.

Only slightly fatigued from finishing my fourth romance in a week, I began this book carefully, and really fell for it. My firm favourite in the series is still the one I started with, but I think Lexi’s improvement in the series really kicks in here. The book had great highs and lows, and fun shenanigans. The issues keeping the couple apart felt a little forced compared to the rest (Teagan’s secret was a good one, one she lied to keep, but Carter doesn’t like lies… I mean, who doesn’t but in the circumstances, just let it go). But other than that, a great book.

If It’s Only Love

Lexi Ryan

Rating: 5 out of 5.
If It's Only Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #6)

From New York Times bestseller Lexi Ryan comes a sexy new standalone romance in the bestselling Boys of Jackson Harbor series. Meet single dad Easton Connor as he leaves the NFL and returns to Jackson Harbor to fight for another chance with the love of his life.


I don’t regret much. 

Not my decision to enter the NFL draft before finishing college. 
Not fighting custody of my daughter—even if, biologically speaking, it turns out she’s not mine. 
And certainly not seducing my buddy’s little sister ten years ago. 

But when it comes to Shayleigh Jackson, my no-regrets attitude stops there. I screwed up royally where she’s concerned. Then I made another mistake when I let her shut me out of her life. 

Now after more than a decade living in different time zones, I’m coming home to Jackson Harbor. My first priority is getting my daughter away from the media circus in LA, but the moment I see Shay, I know I’ll stop at nothing to win her back.

So what if she won’t speak to me? So what if she’s changed? So what if she’s fallen for some douchebag professor? I’ve never gotten over her and I know she feels the same about me. I’ve let her go twice. I won’t make that mistake again.

If It’s Only Love and all other books in this series can be read as standalones, but you’ll enjoy reading them together.

I didn’t read this one during this stint, but as I’ve reviewed the rest here, I thought I may as well give my thoughts on this one. 

Now that all the Jackson brothers have been paired off, we finally focus on Shay, the baby sister. I went into this book knowing nothing, but was gripped by the opening chapter, an extract I stumbled across. Here we follow a couple that started so well, but through a series of flashbacks we learn where life got in the way. I could not put this book down. Up till 3am reading! The dilemma for the two characters… as this was my first introduction to the series, I hadn’t yet cracked that the couple always end up together, and let me tell you, the worry I felt for these two was an actual ache in my chest. When we hit the present timeline and Shay discovers the issue that threatens to keep the two apart – perfection! It was so well crafted into the story. I felt dread leading to the discovery, pain at its revelation, and tears of happiness as it was resolved. I absolutely loved this one. 

Reading Round Up – July

Another month, another round of reviews. Despite spending the first half of the month concentrating on writing, I did manage to find a little time as the summer holidays started to sit down and read. And I mean read a physical book, which is a rarity for me. As I usually work my design job with an audiobook on the go, I tend to let the pile of physical books build up, but with the weather good, I was able to get into two of them, swinging in my hammock while the boys played or drew in the garden. Success!

The Ivies

Alexa Donne

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Ivies

Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions…among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly.

Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.

I started watching Alexa Donne’s YouTube channel a few years ago, not only for her writing tips but her insight into traditional publishing. Her previous two books (sci-fi retellings of classics) were more my usual read, but when her latest book came out, I decided to take a look regardless of the genre. And the book did not disappoint. 

I wouldn’t say I was on the edge of my seat (or hammock), but I was pretty close. There were just the right amount of clues dropped that I was able to guess most of the twists (though not all), but that’s perfect for me. I love being able to guess what comes next. 

When I started the book, I kept thinking I should recommend the book to a friend’s daughter in a similar schooling situation to the main character Olivia. She’s at a competitive private boarding school, but not one of the rich kids. But as the book progressed, revealing the dark underbelly of the fictional Claflin School, Olivia’s friends’ treatment of her, and Olivia’s own faults, I reconsidered! 

At first I disliked the ending. It wasn’t the conclusion I expected, and after such an intense read I was almost deflated. Until I hit the last page. That ending! It was perfect.

Breach of Peace

Daniel B Greene

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Breach of Peace (The Lawful Times, #0.1)

When an imperial family is found butchered, Officers of God are called to investigate. Evidence points to a rebel group trying to stab fear into the very heart of the empire. Inspector Khlid begins a harrowing hunt for those responsible, but when a larger conspiracy comes to light, she struggles to trust even the officers around her.

I was clearly on a YouTube kick, so went from The Ivies into Breach of Peace. A few years ago I went into a panic that I didn’t read enough. It was probably true. At one point I read all the time, but in writing my first book, having two young children, and just life in general, my reading levels had dropped. But I felt like I’d been out of the game for so long I didn’t know where to start. I stumbled across Daniel’s YouTube channel while on the hunt for reviews, and love his honest and helpful reviews (if he dislikes something, the reason is clearly explained and we’re not just told ‘the book was shit’).

To start, I don’t often read novellas, so I’m not certain how the book compares on that level. When reading it, I often wished more time could be spent on world building, or certain aspects of the investigation, or with the characters. When bad things happened to characters, I didn’t feel invested enough in them to care. But the time we did spend with each character was great, and something really special was being forged. There just wasn’t enough of it for me. I would have preferred a full novel.

I had heard the opening was fairly brutal (it opens on a crime scene). It definitely set the tone of the novel, though it did in part feel gratuitous—there’s a reason I don’t watch Saw movies. There were a few too many characters introduced too quickly, but again the novella format likely played a role in this.

But overall, I was impressed. It was a good introduction to the world, and it was the world really loved in this one. Very dark. My kinda read!

La Belle Sauvage

Philip Pullman

Rating: 4 out of 5.
La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…

Malcolm’s father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; an Egyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

This one has been on my bookshelf since it was released, so finally I found time to read it. But did I read the physical book? No. Despite all my best intentions on the day I added it to my Christmas list, it was the notification from the library letting me know the audiobook was available that kicked me into gear. Some design work had come in, so the timing was perfect.

It was great to revisit this world so many years after reading his Dark Materials. I will always remember telling my mum how much I wanted to see a film of Northern Lights (back when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was being turned into a movie), and she said it would never happen because training all those animals would be too hard. Lucky for me technology did the work of an animal trainer, though unluckily the resulted in The Golden Compass… still the BBC series was much better. I digress only to say that I purposefully haven’t reread His Dark Materials as I didn’t want to spend my time watching the series comparing the two, so stepping back to Lyra’s Oxford in La Belle Sauvage was very welcome.

The book started slow, meandering as Malcolm did in his canoe. Having completed this book and started the next one, I can see exactly why La Belle Sauvage started as it did. I wouldn’t say I was bothered by the slow start, I enjoyed enough about it that I was gripped. Once things heated up (or should I say once things were flooded and destroyed) in the middle, I was glued to my headphones. Certain parts of the book lost me a little. I was thrown by the inclusion of fairies, but then when I think back to His Dark Materials, it wasn’t completely out of place. 

I made the mistake of thinking the book was middle grade, so when the shit really hit the fan I was completely thrown—do we normally drop f-bombs and rape and paedophilia in MG?—but no. It’s an adult book. Not that that meant I was happy reading about these subjects, but I wasn’t quite as baffled by their inclusion.

After leaving it so long to read this book, I dove straight into the sequel. I’m still reading The Secret Commonwealth at the moment, so shall post a review next month.

Reading Roundup – May

As a new feature on the blog, I’ve decided to add reviews of all the books I’ve read in the month. I need to give myself a kick up the bum to remember to leave reviews, and hopefully this’ll also help me to get better at writing them. The amount of books I read each month will not doubt be varied. I listen to audiobooks while working the day job (artworking greeting cards and designing book covers), but don’t tend to read at all while I’m writing. There may be months where I’ve nothing to review, and there may be months like this one, where there’s a whole bunch of them!

The Rage of Dragons

Evan Winter

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1)

The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.

Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him. 

I wanted to start reading this one after watching an interview with author Evan Winter. The story sounded right up my street, and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Tau is a character driven by his own selfish reasons, who would likely let the world burn as long as he got his vengeance in the process. I found myself often comparing it to The Poppy War, with the main character joining the military, being overtaken by war, and being hell bent on their quest. Even when Tau made decisions so terrible I shouted at my phone (listening via Audiobook), I understood exactly where he was coming from. I couldn’t get enough of this book, which is why I immediately started the sequel.

It’s also worth noting that while this book is now published by Orbit, it was originally self-published. This book is a shining example of just how good self-published books can be.

The Fires of Vengeance

Evan Winter

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Fires of Vengeance (The Burning, #2)

Desperate to delay an impending attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, Tau and his queen craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all-out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the ‘true’ Queen of the Omehi.

If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne and reunite her people, then the Omehi might have a chance to survive the coming onslaught.

A fab sequel, just as strong as its predecessor. I loved the direction the story took, especially getting to know the rest of Tau’s troop. I’m also a bit of a sucker for a romantic subplot, and just as with the last book, this one was very well done. I’m now impatiently awaiting the third in the series! 

The Winter Road

Adrian Selby

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Winter Road

The greatest empire of them all began with a road.

The Circle – a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.

With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet . . .

All roads lead back to war.

Not an easy one to read, with certain scenes requiring me to make an effort towards emotional distance to get through them. I shall avoid spoilers, but if you can’t read books where children are killed, this one may not be for you. Still, despite that, this book did something I really appreciated. I’ve read a few books recently where it seemed that part of what made the strong female lead so strong was a refusal to have children. Sometimes it’s because of society, sometimes it’s because they’ll get in the way of the quest, but it grates on me. I don’t think it should be the case that when I try to name strong females in fantasy that are also mothers, only the likes of Cersei Lannister come to mind… So this book, with a lead who could be both badass and care for her adopted children, was much needed. All in all the book is brutal and heart wrenching, but worth it.

The Bone Shard Daughter

Andrea Stewart

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire, #1)

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

In this book, I found the magic more interesting than the characters (at least until about half way in). The book follows four story lines, and I must admit I was only particularly interested in one of them (Jovis), until another character’s story joined his. Main character Lin has lost her memories, and once I pieced together the mystery surrounding this one I found myself far more interested in the book, which I found to end on a stronger note than it started. I’m still intrigued by the story enough to be interested in a sequel, but in a month of strong reads, this one became forgettable.

Conjure Women

Afia Atakora

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Conjure Women

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing—and for the conjuring of curses—are at the heart of this dazzling first novel

Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.

Magnificently written, brilliantly researched, richly imagined, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and the lengths they will go to save themselves and those they love.

I found this book while going through the Fantasy section on BorrowBox, which definitely led me to believe this book was something it wasn’t. That isn’t a bad thing, the story was great, but where I had expected a story of essentially mother and daughter witches with the American Civil War as a backdrop, this was an in-depth story of a mother and daughter struggling through slavery and ‘freedom time’. Another difficult read which including many dying children. After one such death around the middle of the book, I considered whether or not to stop reading, but I persevered and it was well worth it. It’s harrowing and cuts deep in a way history book can’t. I picked this one up mistakenly, and I’m glad I did.

Kings of the Wyld

Nicholas Eames

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Kings of the Wyld (The Band, #1)

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

Given that my previous read had been a tough one, this book was well needed. So many laugh out loud moments (especially the scene involving an erectile disfunction potion thrown mid battle). The humour is just as juvenile as I am, and I’m giggling in nearly every scene. My other half is a musician, so I’ve been recommending this one to all his fantasy loving bandmates. This book skirts the edges of grimdark with its characters, but unlike many others that are great but harrowing, this is just so much fun, and sometimes that’s all you need in a book.