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Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim

Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim

Six Crimson Cranes by [Elizabeth Lim]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, teens and YA.

Well, re-tellings are a bit hit and miss for me, some I’ve adored and others…well, lets just say I didn’t. This story though, based on the old Grimms fairy tale, pulled at me. I adored Grimms as a kid, any fairy stories but especially those, and I’d read them over and over.( Mum used to say “Jeannie, you’re too old for fairy tales.” I’d have been maybe 9 or 10….) I’m much, much older now – frankly, you’re Never too old for fairy tales 😉
I remember this one so well, the poor sister spinning and knitting sweaters out of nettles…

Elizabeth makes the sister a princess, and the brothers princes. Sets them in a beautiful Eastern setting, with woods that stretch for miles, huge snow covered mountains, harsh dusty roads. There’s a very pronounced master/servant divide that works so well for the story.
The closeness of Shiori and her brothers grows, she’s always been loyal to them, loves them, but they’ve grown apart over the years. Now though, forced into each others company, depending on each other to break the curse, they grow back as one unit.

I loved this book, loved the addition of dragons, loved the fantasy elements that were still true to the original story but changed to fit this new one. I enjoyed the way Eastern beliefs and myths were woven into an essentially European fairy tale. It all added to that overall roundness of the story, made it feel believable.
I really liked seeing the day to day life, the little things like Shiori struggling to work for the lady she tried to steal the boat from. There were some great characters, harsh ones, kind ones, and of course my favourite, the cruel but clever, wicked ones.
Shiori grew so much in this book, from a sweet but selfish princess, into a much more rounded and understanding character. I enjoyed the gentle romance that grew towards the end, loved the way poor Shiori and her brothers seemed to take one step forward and two back. Those setbacks all added to the story, pushed her and her brothers into devising even more ways to try to break the curse. Kiki though, Kiki really was the star for me. I loved her, and can’t wait to see where Elizabeth takes her and Shiori on the next adventure.
This story is complete but…there are seeds sown for a follow-up that I’d love to read.

Stars: Five, a fun read for all ages, not just teens and YA.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

How to Talk to a Goddess, (The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic 2), Emily Croy Barker 

 

How to Talk to a Goddess, (The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic 2),
Emily Croy Barker 

How to Talk to a Goddess and Other Lessons in Real Magic by [Emily Croy Barker]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Sci-fi and fantasy

Its so long since I read book one that I decided to reread it. I remembered parts but discovered there was much I’d forgotten, and found that it was still as much fun as first time round.
Then I went straight on to read this and I think having refreshed my thoughts via first book made it easier to get into Nora’s mind, to follow why she chose certain actions. I was a bit sad for her parents who would once more get plunged into a mysterious disappearance, but really, how could she explain it? I think at least leaving them a note would have been kind, even if they don’t believe it.
I liked that Nora’s return was not seamlessly easy, and very believable. I wondered how after accidentally slipping into that world she’d be able to repeat it, and it was done in a way that felt natural.

I loved this book, the first is still my favourite by a small margin, but this has some great parts. I did like the things that happened, good and bad, to Nora and Aruendiel, the separation, the jealousies ( I love a good jealous issue!) I wasn’t so keen on the Goddess parts, and of course that’s a huge part of the story. It wasn’t that I disliked that part, I just felt Nora became someone else at times, and I wasn’t convinced she’d have acted in the way she did.
I’m glad the Faitoren were brought in and a resolution found, that tied up any lose parts from earlier and allowed the story to move forward.
I enjoyed meeting Aruendiel’s friends, and how they pulled together in dangerous times. The magic, I love that, loved the workings of the spells, loved the whole idea but then at heart I can’t help wishing there was magic in the world…..
Its a fun read, a worthy follow up and I would still like more from this world. I think Nora, Aruendiel and their friends could still have lots of adventures.

Stars: Five, A fabulous read, worthy follow up. And please Emily, more??

ARC supplied by author

For the Wolf, Hannah Whitten

For the Wolf, Hannah Whitten

For the Wolf (The Wilderwood Books Book 1) by [Hannah Whitten]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was so looking forward to this but the beginning…well, I had to restart a few times because, honestly, it was a slog. Once past that though it was a fantastic read, I’m so glad I didn’t give up, and I really want the next book Now!

I loved the Wilderwood scenes, they really were the best part. The slow burn romance, the Fife and Lyra interactions, the other characters, descendants of those caught in the past, and of course, the Wilderwood. A wood like no other, sentient, but focused on survival at all costs, and that’s meant the deaths of second daughters in the past.
What I wasn’t keen on was the Neve, Kiri part of the story, at least in the early stages. When the end grew near the two parts melded and became one but until then it was as if I was reading two different stories, only tangentially connected. It was hard jumping from one story arc to the other.
There were some terrific characters here, some horrific moments in the Wilderwood, and lots of things to learn, superstitions and stories, some of which were true, others not. I hadn’t read the connection to Red riding Hood, thankfully, as I don’t like re-imaginings of traditional stories and would have not requested this. To me, the only connection really is superficial, Red’s name and cloak, the woods and Eammon being known as The Wolf.
Its a fantastic read, once past the beginning I was gripped. Its very intense at times, lots of gritty drama and details, and the fabulous slowly unfolding romance. I am so hoping its not long to wait for more!

Stars: Five, If you struggle at first, stick with it, its so worth it. Fabulous, dramatic, intense story. And a gorgeous slow burn romance.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Threadneedle, Cari Thomas

Threadneedle, Cari Thomas

Threadneedle: SUNDAY TIMES bestseller and most anticipated debut fantasy release of the year by [Cari Thomas]

Genre: General Fiction ( Adult),

I struggled with this. Its classed as Adult yet it feels very YA. I’ve read YA books I’ve loved, some transcend age, but this feels so YA that I struggled with it. The story dragged, and sadly by 40% in I started skim reading to see what happened. There was a lot going on but it seemed very confusing, very muddled and some events seemed to have no real purpose. It could well be my skimming though, that missed the events they led to. I wanted to know what would happen, wanted to see how it would play out but just couldn’t get through the whole story to get to the end.
Would I read next part? I don’t know. Maybe as the characters are aging it’ll feel less YA, Towards the last quarter it began to lose that feeling for me, with the characters facing some very hard situations and decisions.
Of course first books in a series or trilogy also have a hard time delivering a good story while creating a new world, and this one has a different kind of magic, and different magical groups too, so there was a lot to introduce to the reader.

Its a shame I didn’t get along with it better, I was so looking forward to it. It could be that book two lures me in and I love it and read this with different eyes. Who knows, I’ve had that happen before, in the same way as I’ve loved the first couple of books in a series but then it lost interest for me.

Stars: Three, its a good story, just didn’t quite click for me. Like I said, maybe when there’s more to tell, more to understand I’ll feel differently about this one. It has left me wondering “what next” so in that sense it delivers.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

A Grimoire for Gamblers, (The Trove Arbitrations Book 1), Amanda Creiglow

A Grimoire for Gamblers, (The Trove Arbitrations Book 1), Amanda Creiglow


Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Sci-fi and Fantasy

This sounded unusual, and that’s good in a market saturated with so many fantasy reads that are almost copies…so I dived in.
The magic here is different, very different to the usual, and I liked that, it was good to read a protagonist that wasn’t instantly transformed into someone more skilled than others hundreds of years older. Magic here – for humans at least – relies on skill, practice, accuracy- and intention. I really felt that part was one of the things that sets this novel above so many others.

I liked Elizabeth, and understood her grief for her father even though he’d been trying to end his life for some time. Her curiosity – that would be me, I couldn’t leave such interesting papers and items alone either….The grief provides a convenient excuse for her not being at work too, which gives her time to sort out this mess she’s inadvertently involved in. I didn’t see the point of the boyfriend, Faisal, he’s away for most of the novel and doesn’t add anything. Their relationship doesn’t feel like a very solid one, there’s no real pull between them, they feel more like flatmates than lovers.

I did get a little confused by all the different magical creatures, and I’m still not entirely sure what/where the Gravelings come from. That kind of brings up the weakness in the story for me, I have several unanswered questions. I didn’t understand the relevance of some incidents, felt others were too slickly glossed over. Max seems almost manic at times, yet terrified of his masters – why? What was the significance of the train, other than to begin events? The solutions occasionally seemed a bit slick, though the end result, the big problem, worked excellently for me. Complex enough to make me think, yet with a logic that I could understand.

Overall this was a fun read, and the issues I had could easily be put down to first in series syndrome. Those books have a tough ask, delivering a story interesting enough to hook the reader, but a world wide enough to carry future books. I think its successful here, I’d certainly like to read more.

Stars: Three and a half, its a fun fantasy, but with some darker edges. Holds promise for an interesting series.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

A Portrait in Ash and Lace, Casket Girls Chronicles, Sofia Aves

A Portrait in Ash and Lace, Casket Girls Chronicles, Sofia Aves

A Portrait in Ash and Lace: The Casket Girl Chronicles: Book 4 by [Sofia Aves]

Genre: Romance, Sci Fi & Fantasy, General Fiction (Adult)

1) I spent ages looking for casket girls 1-3….Thought I was losing it 😉 but this is a series with each book written by a different author. Found that out from anther reviewer!
That’s why i couldn’t find casket girls 1-3…..i never though to look under different authors!
I felt the story had so much potential but it never quite got there. It is very short, another thing I hadn’t realised, shorts rarely work for me. I felt that everything became squashed into far too quickly over events, whereas the potential for making a longer read was there. Was there is worked well, if a little disjointed at times, confusing at others and that’s where more space would have helped, let the story come out fully instead of being pushed into brief, not always clear, sections.
The ending is very abrupt, in fact for me it doesn’t feel complete. I haven’t read this author before, but I would happily read more if the story was longer.

Stars: Three, its a bit muddled at times, and would benefit from extra length IMO as it has the potential to carry more.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Chaos in the Coven, (Witches of Raven’s Landing), Saskia Walker

Chaos in the Coven, (Witches of Raven’s Landing), Saskia Walker

Chaos in the Coven (Witches of Raven's Landing Book 3) by [Saskia Walker]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, this is probably my favourite or the trio. Maybe because I feel I know many of the characters. Its good to see how things are growing in the coven, though even with them being witches I’m still pretty sure it wouldn’t be as easy hiding things from the rest of the village as it seems. Still, that’s the beauty of fiction 😉
This book seems to have a bit of everything, the Coven witches of course and then we’ve Ghosts, Demons and Vampires…Vampires. First time they’ve been around in the village and at first the Coven members cant make it out. There’s more issues with Nathaniel Fox, a documentary crew poking into everything, looking for the paranormal, and an old acquaintance from Aveline’s past crops up, and he’s unwelcome. Sadly he’s also very persistent, very suspicious, and tagged into the film crew.
Its a fun read, not just the documentary crew but the Coven, the 1940’s party ( I had to look up Zoot suit – found from Wiki rabbit hole and the images I remember seeing a pic with my dad in that style trousers…See, even fiction teaches us things). Of course there;s Eben, who adores Aveline, and is such a source of strength. She needs it in this book, there are some hard things to deal with.
It ends with a big bang, literally, and some tear jerking moments too.

Stars: Four, a fun read, I enjoyed seeing how the coven and its memebers have grown over the books, and how Fox was finally dealt with.

ARC supplied by author

The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.

The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.
Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about…

The Midnight Bargain: Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about... by [C. L. Polk]
Romance
Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but quickly became hooked and I loved it.
Its a mix, a magical world, but historical in the sense that women are property, and horrors, no matter how talented magically once married they lose that. As spirits can enter unborn children and take over women have to wear a collar to lock out their magic and therefore lock out any harmful spirits. Not just while they are pregnant, but from their wedding day to the end of their childbearing years. Beatrice is horrified, she is talented, thinks the system unfair and would fair rather keep her magic and remain unmarried. However her families future depends on her making a good marriage, thanks to some poor investments by her father, a fact she’s only just become aware of.
Poor Beatrice, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her only hope is to continue her magical education in secret and get good enough to convince her father she can help mend the families fortunes that way…
There are some great characters here, a lovely mix of friendship and the usual Mean Girls, as Beatrice isn’t quite from the top drawer. I was surprised how things with Ysabeta developed, loved it, it wasn’t what I expected. Ianthe, who couldn’t love him. One of the few forward thinking men of the time, who was prepared to try to understand what Beatrice had issues with. Like most of us, whats accepted as norm isn’t questioned, and though he knew Ysabeta has problems with it he hadn’t really though about it from a woman’s view. Of course he’s in the minority, and his mother certainly doesn’t share his views.
The star for me was Nadi, the luck spirit. I adored her, she made the book really special, her relationship with Beatrice. They both cared about the other, where convention said spirits needed to be kept in place, and didn’t have those sort of feelings.
Its a gentle romance, beset with society problems and a really fun read. I loved the magic, loved the problems that cropped up, loved the gentle mean girls stuff. It ends neatly, everything wraps up with a neat epilogue, and I’d love to read more from this world, see how the things develop with these characters and maybe others a couple of years down the line.

Stars: Five, a really magical read and I love this world. C L Polk, please write more!

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Cuckoo in the Coven, Saskia Walker.

Cuckoo in the Coven, Saskia Walker.

Cuckoo in the Coven (Witches of Raven's Landing Book 2) by [Saskia Walker]

Like the first in this series the story is fun, light and at times very steamy. Its an easy read story, not one that’s dark and dense, but a kind of sexy, supernatural M&B read 😉

I liked Rowena, felt for her when she thought she’d been let down by Caleb. She’s somehow they type of person you feel protective of, but she actually has a lot of inner strength.
I wasn’t sure about Caleb, I understood his need to know more of his origins, but using someone to get information isn’t really something that sits well with me. The woman holding the story of his background over his head is deliciously horrible. I do like characters of that type in a story, it adds a sharper edge. Knowing that though, and Caleb does, I wanted him to think a bit more about what she was going to do with the information he found for her. It wasn’t going to be anything good, and I needed him to recognise that but he didn’t want to.
She had connections with people from Raven’s Landing that I didn’t expect, and of course everything comes to a head, both groups meeting, magic being thrown out hard and fast, and a brief appearance of sorts by Fox. I do feel that magic is a little bit of a quick fix solution in this and the previous novel, but that’s a personal issue. I like it best when characters have spent time honing skills, not when they instinctively know what to do. Its a small irritation though.
Stars: Three, its a fun read, quite light but easy to follow, no intense concentration needed.
ARC supplied via author.

A Coven of her own, Saskia Walker.

A Coven of her own, Saskia Walker.

A Coven of Her Own (Witches of Raven's Landing Book 1) by [Saskia Walker]

I liked Sunny, incredibly trusting of her gran’s friend Celeste. I wasn’t entirely happy about Celeste’s actions, she was quite manipulative even though she though she was acting in everyones best interests.

The story is fun, light and at times very steamy. Cullen settled really well, accepted everything Sunny told him. I’d like to have known more about the coven wars than we had, about others in the coven, and the whole story was quite light on details.

Things happened, Sunny gets to grips with the supernatural world really quickly, and for me I would have liked a bit more info, a bit more depth on that. Much though I like hot sex I’d have happily sacrificed some of that for more solid background and day to day stuff. Likewise Sunny’s parents visit – and the “humour “ there – it wasn’t needed, the story was fine without, it didn’t add. IMO of course 😉

It feels like its all critisism here, and its not, there was much to enjoy. The journey back to the 1800s, the story behind Cullen, why Sunny was dreaming of him and of course the magic itself. I love magic in books, and really liked how these folk connected it to nature. Nature is important to me, and much of their magic resounded with me that way.

The big bad, Fox. I wanted more of how he changed, why, the connection between him and Celeste. I do like a “good” bad chantacter in a story, and Fox had the potential but I didn’t feel he quite lived up to it.
I’m hoping we meet these folk again in later stories, assuming they are all connected through characters that is – I haven’t looked yet. Hang on, I’ll be back…..Right, it doesn’t say, but it must be so, surely the coven is their common connection? The next books centre around it, so hopefully we will meet these characters and maybe learn more about them.
The ending was neat, but did feel a little rushed to me. I wasn’t quite ready for it.

Stars: Three, its a fun read, quite light but easy to go along with. Especially right now, mid covid and with a brain thats finding concentration hard…
ARC supplied via author.

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