Top 14 (ish) Reads of 2020

In which Deborah over-uses the word “delightful” approximately 987348749 times. February’s not too late to have a 2020 bookish wrapup, right? *cough*

Of course I have to share my favorite reads of last year (in several categories . . . so, yes, there’s more than 14!), so let’s get to it!

According to my Goodreads, I read 100 books! (A few more on my personal list, but hey, unpublished etc. things don’t quite count. :P) Yes, many of them were shorter, but anyhoo.

Here are some stats:

  • 32 new-to-me novels
  • 21 novellas/quick reads
  • 12 re-reads
  • 10 short stories
  • 7 picture books
  • 6 non-fiction
  • 5 anthologies
  • 4 graphic novels/comics
  • 3 audiobooks
  • Total: 100 books

And here are the reviews I posted here last year:

TOP NEW READS OF 2020

  • Dana Illwind and Growing Shadows (Arthur Daigle) — Well, that made it to my top-five-favorite books of all time! Jayden and Dana are some of my favorite characters EVER and I’ve talked about short stories of theirs on the blog here before, but they are finally released in a novel form and I’ve now read it four times and just never get tired of it! I’m hoping to review it this week. I just can’t put into words how much I love it! Jayden’s one of my favorite characters ever (an elegant enchanter with anger management issues but a burning heart for justice) and Dana is just as marvelous (this sturdy girl is #goals) and they make an EPIC duo. The book is just SO FUNNY but also epic and the humor and world and snark all blend together to form one of my favorite books ever. Perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Discworld, or Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold.
  • Winter Spell (Claire M. Banschbach) — This wintry tale is perfection and has some of my favorite characters, pair-ups, and world-building ever! Plus we have ice and water magic, different faeries, a dash of romance, an epic buddy story on the side, and Northern Lights. What is not to love? Tonya, Princess Diane, August, and of course Dorian all wrapped themselves around my heart and won’t let go. I love it so, so much!
  • In the Region of the Summer Stars (Stephen R. Lawhead) — This Celtic fantasy felt like coming home and swept me into a world of ancient Ireland that I’d been longing for without remembering that I was. It’s a marvelous adventure with warriors, horses, boats, druids, fae, and our hero Conor, all in the stunning hills and coasts of Eirlandia. It’s fantastic and I really need to finish reading the series — hopefully soon!
  • Between Floors (W.R. Gingell)note: this is book 3; starts with Between Jobs — I’ve been quite enjoying the City Between series, urban fantasy set in modern Tasmania with fae etc., and this was my favorite yet, because Athelas is my faaave! (And Zero. And just all of it.) I love the humor and the snark! Pet and her Psychos are just such fun. I’m reading them aloud with my siblings and the voices are a blast to do. *grinning*
  • Fierce Heart/War Bound/Death Wind/Elf Prince (Tara Grayce) — I’m just lumping them all together because I feel like it’s one story, Farrendel and Essie’s story, and I love iiit. (I think my favorite is War Bound, but they all go together. ;)) Farrendel is the bessst cinnamon roll elf, and I love Essie and her brothers (Edmund, though!) and all the humor and sweet romance and banter and epicness. They’re just a lot of fun (and feels)!
  • The New Emperor’s Concerto (Hazel B. West) — A fabulous swashbuckling buddy story set in futuristic London, this felt like a fun action movie and was equal parts humorous and epicly exciting. Lysander and Flynn forever! And everyone needs a Sinclair (the butler). It was so wonderfully BRITISH and I adored it. Also, all the Pratchett references.
  • Cry of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse)note: book 3; starts with Mark of the Raven — An amazing conclusion to a trilogy with books that have been on my top-favorites list each year — there’s a reason I cosplayed as Selene. 😉 Just a really wonderful fantasy trilogy, and Selene and Damien and wyverns and the gifts/elements and THAT SCENE NEAR THE END WITH THE FLOWER, AAHH! MY HEART. I just loved how it wrapped up!
  • continued —
Between Jobs is standing in for Between Floors since I sadly don’t have a paperback of that one (yet!)
  • An Echo of the Fae (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt) — This selkie/fae, winter/summer novel is like a perfect summer day. I loved it so much! A fae summer adventure with a dash of Rapunzel, some selkie mysteries, a determined heroine in our young Echo, delightful side characters and creatures — including mini dragons! — it’s just a delight all-around and it makes me smile.
  • The Changeling Sea (Patricia A. McKillip) — I can’t even describe this book! *shrieks* It was a totally unexpected amazing book, which I picked up on a whim, and it was absolutely delightful and like an original fairy tale, all enchantments and mysterious princes and magic and the sea and a magician and a girl and a little village. Descriptions fail me but it was a lovely little book!
  • The Geppetto Codex (Kyle Robert Shultz)note: book 5; starts with The Beast of Talesend — Gareth the mild-mannered, nervous faun, and Sylvia, the hotheaded dryad, pair up to go up against terrifying puppets in 1920s fantasy Venice — and yes, it’s just as fun and wacky and thrilling and hilarious as that sounds. *grin, grin* If you haven’t tried out this Afterverse adventure yet, you’re missing out. Also, amazing prologue and epilogues which have bits of our favorites, Nick and Cordelia! *flailing*
  • Midnight for a Curse (E.J. Kitchens) — A truly delightful Beauty and the Beast novel, with humor and feels and gorgeousness, mysteries and fun characters, and a wonderful dream-aspect that I super enjoyed! Also, what would happen if the Beat didn’t actually want to be un-cursed? Bwahaha. This one was so much fun and made me happy.
  • Emberhawk (Jamie Foley) — I adored her Sentinel trilogy so I was super curious about this set in the same world at a previous time. It was fun! I loved seeing more of Felix (sly snarky fox!) and Ryon’s story and all the other characters, and the woods and adventures and the treetop city! Also, Lysander forever! (Yes, there’s a Lysander in two of my favorite books this year. It must be a Lysander year.)
  • Thief of Time (Terry Pratchett) — Probably my favorite Pratchett since Mort, Guards Guards, and The Wee Free Men. This was a fabulous conclusion to the Death series and I so enjoyed all the timey-wimey things in it and Susan and just most of it in general.
  • The Islands of Chaldea (Diana Wynne Jones) — I’ve been curious to read this one for a long time, as it’s one Diana Wynne Jones’s sister completed. I quite enjoyed it! It had a Celtic feel and a hot air balloon and yeah, fun as always! I’m nearly out of new-to-me DWJ reads, so it was a delight to read this one last March Magics. (I’ll have to do something for that this year too if I can find time.)

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Here are two books that I simply HAVE to mention, because despite not making it onto my personal top favorites, simply for personal preference reasons, they still absolutely BLEW ME AWAY and everyone must know about them. *grinning*

  • Beyond the Shadowed Earth (Joanna Ruth Meyer) — Y’all, I adore this author’s books, and I was SO impressed with this story! STUNNING and amazingly well done! A bit dark for my personal taste but I was super impressed with the character arc and loved a lot of what I got out of it. And the Silmarillion vibes near the end were a delight. Yeah, it was wow.
  • Ahab (E.B. Dawson) — Aside from a bittersweet/borderline-tragic ending which (personally) I couldn’t handle, this book is definitely one of my favorites of the year! Everything except the last couple of chapters, basically, were ABSOLUTE PERFECTION so of course I have to shout it out! Ahab and Starbuck are LIFE and this Moby Dick retelling set in space is just gorgeous and brilliant and the best aside from some sadness. XD If you can handle some sad, READ IT. IT’S SO GOOD.

BEST QUICK READS/NOVELLAS

Sometimes shorter reads and novellas don’t make it to best-of lists because they’re a little too short to pack quite the punch, which is somewhat unfair and I feel like they deserve their own category since they seem like a different category than novels… So I’m shouting out my favorite novellas/shorter books, because I read quite a few and these were the most amazing! (Not to mention fabulous if you only have a brief amount of time to consume a story.)

  • All That Glimmers (Selina J. Eckert) — An incredible modern fantasy Rumpelstiltskin story. This is one of many seasonal fairy tale retelling novellas by this author, all of which stand alone. The “Rumpelstiltskin” character in this is a mysterious fae (I love him!), and the heroine and her best friend (who has antlers!) are college students who get swept into the fae world and must heal from loss and discover fae secrets. It was just lovely. ^_^
  • Hand of Steel & The Deathhorn (Jessi L. Roberts) — These are space opera sci-fi adventures with worldbuilding/creatures I absolutely adore. I don’t read much sci-fi but this series is just the sort that I love when I do read it! Hand of Steel is about a bounty hunter (Krys) and how she comes up against space pirates including the awesome feline-like Klate (he’s my fave!). The Deathhorn tells Klate’s backstory and I love it so much. Just such a cool series!
  • Fire and Wind (Daley Downing) — Fire and Wind follows a unique character (DG — loved her!) and spans centuries, continents, and multiple fantasy creatures and it’s just a delight. It’s a spinoff from this author’s wonderful suburban fantasy series which includes Masters and Beginners, Rulers and Mages, and Healers and Warriors. I particularly love how this includes creatures and places and times from all over, from kitsunes to Anastasia/Rasputin to phoenixes to Easter Island to modern-day London or Arizona. I just love it!
  • All the Queen’s Sons (Elizabeth Kipps) — A reverse Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, this follows a shoemaker’s daughter who is trying to discover why the queen’s six sons wear out the shoes her father makes for them. It was so much fun and a marvelous new twist on my favorite fairy tale!
  • The Midnight Show (Sarah Pennington) — Another Twelve Dancing Princesses story, I loved how this was a 1920s-esque fantasy world and how the fairy tale retelling aspect blended seamlessly with being a detective story! Bastian is a great detective hero and the voice was fun and the worldbuilding was delightful. It was delicious!

BEST SHORT STORIES

  • Dawnsong (Bryn Riplinger Shutt) — THIS STORY. *clutches heart* Lyrical writing, amazing characters, funny moments, relatable struggles, a vivid setting I just want to melt into, and a story that touched my heart in all the best ways. And all in a novelette of just 15,000 words! Definitely one of my favorite short reads of the year. (Also, I adore Des, Lilias, and Artair so, so much!)
  • Shadow Light (Sarah Delena White) — This story reminded me of The Silmarillion, George MacDonald’s Day Boy and Night Girl, and a short story by Lloyd Alexander (as well as Windswept, another story by Sarah Delena White, and one of my own unpublished short stories), all in the BEST way. Like pure myth/original-fairytale. I loved it a lot!

BEST NON-FICTION

I don’t have a lot to say about these two other than that I quite enjoyed both and recommend them for creative types. ^_^

  • Adorning the Dark (Andrew Peterson)
  • Walking on Water (Madeleine L’Engle)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

  • A Very Bookish Thanksgiving (Note: This was a limited-edition anthology, but I think the novellas may be published individually later, or the anthology miiight reappear for a bit for a limited time?) — I couldn’t not give a shout-out to this lovely collection of Thanksgiving novellas inspired by works of classic fiction. A Promise of Acorns (by Kelsey Bryant; Jane-Eyre inspired) and As Long as I Belong (by Sarah Holman; Mansfield-Park inspired) were absolutely amazing stories that blew me away. I adore them. I also loved The Windles and the Lost Boy (by Rebekah Jones; Peter-Pan inspired) and the Great-Expectations inspired Grand Intentions by J. Grace Pennington about a writer! (A Fine Day Tomorrow, by Amanda Tero, inspired by Little Women, was too sad/stressful for me, but I expected that. XD So it wasn’t to my taste but those who enjoy Little Women will very likely like it — just my personal taste.) Just such a good collection. ^_^ I loved the classic-inspired aspects to them, and the Thanksgiving theme, and they were just so delightful!

BEST PICTURE BOOKS

  • The Four Donkeys (Lloyd Alexander) — The Four Donkeys was a delightful folk-tale-esque picture book by Lloyd Alexander. One of the last of his children’s books I hadn’t read yet, I got it for my birthday last year and found it full of his winsome wisdom and wry humor and delight that I always love.
  • Marigold and the Snoring King (J.D. Rempel) — I won a copy of Marigold and the Snoring King and it was so fun, original, and adorable! Next time you’re looking for an indie picture book, I recommend this one! It was fun and classic but fresh all at once. Charming. Made me smile!

There we are! I hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite books of the year, and if you stuck with the post this whole time, you deserve a virtual cupcake. *awards it to you*

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these or are any going on your TBR? What’s your favorite book you read last year?

The Icarus Aftermath by Arielle M. Bailey (Review)

Aaahh, I’m finally here with a review for a book I’ve been very excited about for a very long time, a Greek mythology in space novel by a lovely author friend who has at last released her debut novel! *flails around* I’m terribly behind because this came out ages ago, but I’m at last reviewing it and — y’all! It’s sooo good!

Title: The Icarus Aftermath

Author: Arielle M. Bailey

  • Date read: February 5, 2021
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Science fiction / Space Opera / Greek Mythology / Retelling (Minotaur and the Labyrinth)
  • Age: YA/NA
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 358 (paperback)
  • Series: The Sunfire Saga, #1
  • Fave character: Talos and Mikon
  • Source: The author and Amazon
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC from the author and was not required to write a positive review. I ended up buying a paperback and finishing on that. XD All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

The Icarus Aftermath was a FASCINATING read! Greek Mythology meets Star Wars, and it WORKS. I don’t read much sci-fi so I was a little nervous going in, but it felt like an awesome movie from the first moment and completely pulled me into the story.

The Minotaur and the Labyrinth in space with the greatest found family characters—what is not to love? It was so much fun! Which sounds weird to say, since it deals with a lot of grief and there’s a war/rebellion on and everything, but the moments of family and shenanigans were the perfect balance to all of that. The writing’s gorgeous and packs a punch, the mysteries and adventures and spying were super compelling/edge-of-your-seat, and I definitely fell in love with most of the characters (though the bossy ones were on and off for me. XD).

Okay, but the characters, though! I love their loyalty and looking out for each other and the tight-knit aspect of their little rebellion family of the Sunfires. (*stares into distance for a moment because of relating to Xuthos for not being a part of it* *blinks back to the present* ANYWAY.) The Starfires were great. All the side-siblings we get a bit of—what a group! XD So many brother feels, too—I’m 100% here for it. And I loved Icarus even though he’s, well, dead for most of it (not a spoiler, it’s what the book is about!), and I liked Koralia most of the time—she was quite a different, interesting heroine, and I felt for her a lot sometimes.

Then we have my FAVORITES, namely Talos and Mikon and Xuthos. I can’t even describe them! They’re so multidimensional but I adore them, particularly Talos, brooding commander of the rebels who’s just so solid and trying to keep everything together—ultimate older-brother figure and just sheer AWESOME and I wanted more of him. Okay, yes, and Mikon, larger-than-life, half-Olympian (so essentially superpowered?) and the absolute most charming, smirky character EVER, but with occasional anger management issues. I can’t with him. He’s the best. XD TALOS. MIKON. I adore them! Xuthos is a bad-boy fighter pilot and even though he’s not quite one of the Sunfires, I feel like he belongs, and he’s got more of a heart than he lets on. And, yes, Koralia trying to wrangle Mikon and Xuthos is the greatest thing and I loved those parts. XD They make a great trio! (Even if I wanted Talos in more of it. XD)

The banter and snark and humor in this book absolutely GIVE ME LIFE. I love it so, so much. The dialogue is gold and the interactions and shenanigans are the greatest! I kept quoting particularly golden lines aloud. *grinning*

Also, some of the sci-fi aspects reminded me of my favorite Timothy Zahn Star Wars books, which made me happy. 🙂

Greek mythology in space was such an interesting twist! I think I missed some things due to not being as brushed up on Greek myth as I probably should be, but I could still enjoy the book despite that. I did pick up on the Minotaur and the Labyrinth retelling bits which were SO well done and unique and awesome. I just love how perfectly it fit into the sci-fi setting! Absolutely brilliant. 😀

It also gave me ALL THE FEELS and there was a particular character I did NOT expect to like as much as I did and uuuuugh why do authors kill off characters. (Yes, I literally did bombard the author with a shrieking message about how could she have killed this person. XD Ahem.) ANYWAY, sometimes character deaths make me knock stars off but I think I’m okay, just whoa, ouch. So I may have had a bit of a quibble or two, heheh, what with that and occasional confusion due to not reading the genre much/references going over my head, but that’s pretty much on me. But yep, all the feels and also all the FUN too, so there’s that!

[Heads-up for readers who might be sensitive to some of these things: there’s some PG-13-level language, brief mentions of various scandals (ah, yes, Greek mythology characters and their messy drama…), and some dealing with character deaths. Clash of the Titans meets the new Star Wars trilogy, basically.]

It feels like a beautiful homage to Star Wars and Greek myth. If you like either of those, this book is going to be your next favorite read. 😀 Delicious, and I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author! You might not have known you needed a sci-fi Minotaur/Labyrinth retelling in your life, but you absolutely do! And especially Talos and Mikon and snarky shenanigans and brothers and family and space battles and magic and all of the feels—you need all of that in your life even more. A gorgeous, masterful book!


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Coiled


Thanks for reading! 🙂

Blood of the Seer by C.M. Banschbach (Review)

Happy release day to Blood of the Seer, only my most anticipated release of 2021! *flailing* The first book was my favorite read of 2019, and this one is even better if you can believe it (believe it), so here’s my review! (Also known as me shrieking to the hills and flailing forever and a day, but anyhoo . . .)

Title: Blood of the Seer (The Dragon Keep Chronicles, #2)

Author: C.M. Banschbach

  • Date read: January 23, 2021
  • Rating: 5 stars (all of the stars!)
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: NA
  • Year pub: 2021
  • Pages: 324 (e-book)
  • Series: Book 2 in the Dragon Keep Chronicles. Book 1 is Oath of the Outcast—read my review of that one here.
  • Fave character: Rhys/the Baron, a.k.a. my smol floof of anger management issues
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher. This review is my own independent and fair evaluation.

Links

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleAuthor’s WebsiteSwag Preorder link (through 2/16/21)Signed Paperback

The smol floof of anger management issues that is the Mountain Baron/Rhys is back in this spectacular conclusion to the duology that began with Oath of the Outcast! YOU GUYS. OH MY WORD. This book—THIS BOOK. Just—I don’t even know if I can be coherent enough to review it, especially without spoilers, but let’s give it a shot. I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK AND THIS SERIES SO MUCH.

The stakes and everything have scaled up in this one and everything climbs to another level, as if Oath of the Outcast was the amazing setup and this one drags us deep into a whole new level of epic. DID I MENTION EPIC? (*whispers softly* Epiccccc.) Again, I don’t know how much to say to not spoil things . . . But I’ll just say that you want the Baron and his Cairns on your side if there’s a war going on, or at least not NOT on your side. *grinning*

The scope is broader, we have new characters and already beloved ones, there’s kind of a war on, Rhys is trying not to deal with stuff he really needs to deal with (but being totally awesome in the meantime), and there’s more going on with the Seer/bond/vision world thing which is so fascinating and I shall not spoil. Also, lots of things that only get hinted at in book one are front and center and it’s fabulous. *cackles*

CHARACTERS! Of course, we have our Mountain Baron himself, Rhys MacDuffy (shhhh, he says that’s not his name because banishment, but pffft, details), and he’s still an absolutely growly, terrifying, amazing outlaw with a heart of gold that’s slooowly emerging more than he wants it to and is still prone to go stabby on you if you’re evil or, you know, annoy him. RHYS IS MY FAVORITE FOREVERRR. He’s just the best and following him through all he goes through is just—my feels! He’s my smol floof of anger management issues (yes, I named him that) and I love him so. He totally makes these books. 😀 His arc and story are my favorite.

Then we have Sean, the Seer of the title, and he’s such a cinnamon roll and the brother feels with him and Rhys are realll. I love seeing more of him and finding his fierce side but he’s also just such a goodhearted guy and he and Rhys will do anything to protect each other even if they’re not “supposed” to be brothers and they’re just liiiife. (Brother tropes are the best, hush.)

Alan! Alan is another great almost-bro of Rhys and the loyalty is fierce with this one. His humor and happy-go-lucky, laid-back, chill-seeming self are the perfect recipe to make us laugh (or make Rhys pretend he’s annoyed at him), but he’s also got a bloodwrath warrior side. Alan makes the bestest friend and we all need an Alan, for reals.

Also, new characters! Brother Ennis is a fantastic new addition and I love him so much (this guy! So good-natured, always ready with a soul-seeing remark or a staff to smack with), and there are more of the Cairns who we get to know better and they’re also amazing. (I mean, terrifying. But amazing.) We’ve seen the Cairns a bit in the first one (especially Bryn, Rorie, and Jes, my friendsss!), but they are SUCH an intriguing bunch, and I love how unique they are. *can count off like ten of them by name with info about them but will restrain myself* They’re terrifying outlaws but they follow their Baron anywhere, and it is just the most amazing tight-knit band of bloodthirsty outlaws Celts, essentially. I love them so.

And Ajax, the Baron’s mastiff—aaahh, this dog! He’s basically Rhys’s emotional support loyal hound and it’s great. Everyone needs an Ajax, too. Then there’s DAMON who’s another favorite (oh my word, Damon) and involved with my favorite fantasy trope. *grin, grin* They’re just all amazing! *collapses* Not to mention a certain side antagonist has a veryyyy interesting arc and it’s my favorite. Ahem. (I know I keep saying everything’s my favorite. WELL, IT IS.)

It’s just the greatest cast! AND ALL THE INTERACTIONS AND SNARK (the snark, though) ABSOLUTELY GIVE ME LIFE.

There are some powerful scenes and arcs that give me all the feels and draw me in so hard. Also, I beta-read an early version of this a few years back, and reading the final version was such a rush of coming home as I read these vivid scenes that were already coiled deep in my heart like a beloved dragon and sprang to life. (May I just draw your attention to some clifftop scenes and the castle and standing stones and some Baron-being-dramatic scenes—oh, boy, the TENT, and the forest-court bit—and Damon scenes, and the epilogue scene, and I’m gonna stop now before I list everything.) I just got SO excited to rediscover this book now that it’s published and it was EVEN BETTER and I’m blown away and already want to re-read the duology, even though I just re-read Oath before diving into Seer. (The back-to-back reading experience was amazing, binge-reading them in just over a day.) I know it’s a series I’m going to want to come back to and read again!

It was such a perfect, satisfying conclusion. I adore how it ended. Just. All of it. It. Was. Perfect. IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. It was everything I wanted and just wrapped up SO WELL and I’m utterly pleased. 10/10 would read about Rhys and this world for a DOZEN books but at least the two we have are absolute perfection, so there’s that. 😀

This one definitely goes down as one of my favorite books and series! Brothers, outlaws, an incredible cast, the Baron (of course!), snark, soul-deep journeys, an awesome fantasy/Celtic feel, and the sheer epic of all of it combined. What is not to love? IT’S. SO. GOOD. I adore, adore, adore this book and I hope it will amaze and delight others as much as it did me. *hugs it forever*

Blood of the Seer is a magnificent conclusion to a stunning Celtic fantasy duology about redemption and brotherhood that you absolutely need in your life!


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Talk to me! Do you like Celtic Fantasy? Are you excited for this one? (Or have you not read Oath of the Outcast, in which case you muuuust!) Thanks for reading! 🙂

Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer (Review)

I’m so excited to be reviewing this new release from Joanna Ruth Meyer! *flails around* Read on for all my thoughts!

And shoutout to this huge tree for being a part of my photoshoot. *grins*

(The scheduling didn’t work properly for this post, and I don’t have internet right now, so I’m trying to fix it from my phone. Hopefully there’s no weird formatting or anything due to this, but please forgive any wonkiness if there is!)

Title: Into the Heartless Wood

Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer

  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Publication date: January 12, 2021
  • Pages: 368 (e-book)
  • Series: No
  • Fave character: Owen!
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received an e-ARC of this book from the author and was under no obligation to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

Whenever I dive into a Joanna Ruth Meyer novel, I prepare to be enchanted, but somehow I never prepare quite enough!

INTO THE HEARTLESS WOOD is a stunning and unique tale, with touches of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (both of which I got so happy about when I noticed nods to them) but simultaneously its own story. I stayed on the edge of my seat the whole time, never knowing what was going to happen next, and utterly enthralled the whole time. I couldn’t put it down! With brilliant twists, expertly-woven threads criss-crossing in a dazzling pattern through this skillful tapestry of story, this book enchanted me.

Can we talk about Owen? OWEN. This cinnamon roll character is amazing and must be protected at all costs. ‘Scuse me while I steal him from his author and wrap him in bubblewrap. His heart and stargazing and rashness and love and heartbreak. He’s just awesome, I can’t! And Seren too! I feel like I can’t talk much about her without spoilers but her arc was incredible and I love her too. Awk! I adore them and their story so, so much, and they give me all of the feels. They go through so much and grow so much and the way they improve each other and just — ! I’m blown away. Go meet them!

The world is amazing and I love it — the woods and castle mixed with slight technology like trains was perfection. (And for some reason I really loved the bits at the palace.) The writing was superb and so immersive, and the way Seren’s chapters were almost like poetry was so unique! Oh, and the side characters were awesome, and I especially like Owen’s two buddies later in the book. 😀

I love how this was a story about people — Owen and Seren and Owen’s little sister (aaahh she’s adorable!) and aaall the people they meet — but at the same time there’s this vast mass of plot building behind them with far-reaching tendrils until it explodes into the forefront at the end. It just felt so well-done, being a story about two people but also what they come up against on both sides (which was…also unique). Sooo fascinating and mythic and amazing!

Quick warning, for anyone who’s squeamish, that there’s quite a bit of blood and death and darkness here and there, but that’s literally the only downside and the book is just amazing. I adore this author’s writing and I love how… at home… I felt reading this book. I loved the Welsh-like names and the Maleficent-ish feel.

It’s a quintessential fairytale of dark beauty and love and sorrow and redemption. A story of a boy and a tree siren girl who meet against a backdrop of trees and stars. A story that’s grown tight around my heart and that I recommend to anyone who needs a dark fairytale and amazing writing in their life. A blazing star against the dark woods. Magnificent.


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Thanks for reading! 🙂

Ahab by E.B. Dawson (Book Review)

Sooo, I’ve got a review for a scifi Moby Dick retelling today! (I also posted it on my Instagram so this post is about the same as that, if you’ve already seen that, just with other info. :))

Title: Ahab

Author: E.B. Dawson

  • Date read: November 14, 2020
  • Rating: 4 stars? I don’t even know how to star this because most of it’s, like, 6 out of 5 stars. XD And then the ending is not okay. T_T So. ???
  • Genre: Sci-fi / Space Opera / Retelling
  • Age: YA/NA?
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 191 (ebook)
  • Series: No
  • Fave character: Don’t make me choose between Ahab and Starbuck. They are both amazing in different ways and are the best working together.
  • Source: The author (e-ARC) and Amazon (finished ebook I preordered)
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

I physically can’t properly review this. I couldn’t handle that ending but otherwise AHAB was amazing and until then I loved every second of it!

E.B. Dawson’s scifi is my favorite, and this one blended old and new, a wonderful Moby Dick retelling set in space, chilling and charming at turns. And Ahab and Starbuck are everything. Buddy stories are the BEST. This came SO close to being one of my top fave books of the year. 1800s-ish feeling but IN SPACE?? So amazing. 💚

I need happy endings, though. I NEED them.

I saw this sad ending coming but foolishly held out hope. Heh. So yeah, while I hated the ending and will not apologize for that (#happyendingsadvocate because #hope), the rest of the book was AMAZING and if you like buddy stories and don’t mind some feels/tragic-to-bittersweet endings, you will LOVE this.

(It also says something about the sheer quality of this book that I don’t hate the book, only the ending–which often makes me write a book off completely. It was utterly entrancing, overall.)

So yes. Good book. Sad ending. Like, couldn’t fall asleep, type sad. 😭 (If you need even MORE feels while reading, you can listen to In the Embers by Sleeping At Last, Brother by Kodaline, and Burn the Ships by For King and Country, which is what I did accidentally. Um. Yeah. Some awesome songs I’ve been listening to lately and a very feelzy combination with this book. It felt quite…ironic.)

The book was amazing while I was reading it, though. Just. Wow. Every word was just–on point. And, again, that 1800s feel? But scifi at the same time? It was perfection. How often do you get a buddy story with intense space voyages but also a gorgeous ball/party and walking 1800s-type streets. I could read this foreverrrr. All of it was incredible until the last chapter or so.

Now excuse me while I go lowkey imagine a (non-heartrending) alternate ending and also flail about how spectacular the rest of the book was.

Aaand I’ll just go cry now, thx. 😭

(Confession: I’ve never actually read the original, and the Moby Dick “book” in this picture is actually a wooden bookend. 😂 Maybe the original prepares you for the ending? 😬 I wouldn’t know. 😅 Also, I adored getting to the part near the end which is basically the Voyage of the Pequod short story, just a little different. I reread it along with the book and enjoyed it immensely. And hey, if AHAB sounds amazing but like me you can’t handle tragicness, do pick up VOYAGE OF THE PEQUOD.)

Thanks to the author for the e-ARC even though I ended up reading the final ebook I ordered since I read it after release because I’m so behind on my reading. 😂


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Sword of Soter by Ralene Burke (Review)

Back again with a review for a Christian fantasy adventure! I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages, so hurray for finally doing so!

Title: Sword of Soter

Author: Ralene Burke

  • Date read: October 26, 2020
  • Rating: 3.5, rounding up to 4
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 295 (paperback)
  • Series: Sacred Armor Trilogy, #2 (Book 1 is Armor of Aletheia — read my review)
  • Fave character: Tristan
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received an e-ARC of this book for an honest review, and later won a paperback copy. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

(3.5 stars, rounding up to 4)

I’ve been so curious to continue this series since reading Armor of Aletheia and I’m excited that I finally read this one. Following the continuing adventures of queen/prophetess Karina, former bounty hunter Tristan, and their companions, was another wild ride!

Tristan is my favorite—I wish he’d been in it more!—and I loved seeing more of Rashka, who is a super cool elf Guardian; she definitely has some tricks up her sleeves. 😉 We also meet new characters who keep the reader guessing. And if you want to read about a chilling villainess, this is the right book, ack! Plus, I mean, we’ve got scary wolf-like lupens, a griffin (!), and a fun talking horse, a.k.a. Dom (everyone needs a horse like Dom).

I’m afraid I . . . disliked pretty much the entire subplot involving Sam, particularly how it ended up; it just kind of stressed me out, personally. *cough* Maybe that’s just me. But the rest of the book was very interesting and an enjoyable read!

The classic fantasy quest feel, but with new things too, was neat. I loved the castles and caves and tests and escapes. (Mazes, though!) So much adventure! The world was so vivid, and the twists kept me on my toes so I was never quite sure what was going to happen next.

Since it had been quite awhile since I’d read the first book, I didn’t remember as many details about that as I should have . . . So I suspect I may have liked this one more if my memory was better or if I’d reread book one first. And like I said, I wasn’t a fan of the Sam subplot. But for the most part I enjoyed it. 🙂

I’m so excited to read the next book, especially with that unexpected ending twist that’s leaving me very curious about how things will be affected . . . Meep! I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for Karina and Tristan and friends!


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