Review of Beauty and the Beast: Steampunk Beauty and the Beast by Melanie Karsak

Beauty and Beastly: Steampunk Beauty and the Beast (Steampunk Fairy Tales Book 3) by [Melanie Karsak]

Synopsis:
In this tale as old as time, Isabelle Hawking must tinker a solution to a heartbreaking mystery.

When Isabelle Hawking and her papa set out from London on a sea voyage, Isabelle is thrilled. Visiting foreign courts, learning from master tinkerers, and studying mechanicals is her dream. And it doesn’t hurt that the trip also offers Isabelle an escape from her overbearing and unwanted suitor, Gerard LeBoeuf.

But Isabelle never arrives. Swept up in a tempest, her ship is lost.

Isabelle survives the storm only to be shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted island. The magical place, dotted with standing stones, faerie mounds, and a crumbling castle, hints of an ancient past. Isabelle may be an unwilling guest, but her arrival marks a new beginning for the beastly residents of this forgotten land.

See how New York Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak puts a steampunk spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale set in gaslamp London.

Review:
Of all the steampunk style stories I have read this is one of my absolute favourites. It has everything amazing and right going for it: we have a spunky, intelligent heroine, we have the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, we have faeries, and we have incredibly well designed tech that doesn’t quite make sense, for good reason. I loved so much about this, the redemption of the characters and how they grew with time, even those that we really didn’t like or expect to see again. Everyone and everything had a purpose, and the story was quite endearing. I often ended up into the late hours of the night wanting to read more, but too tired to do so. If you like steampunk, you like fairy tales, and you love Beauty and the Beast– this will become a clear favourite.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Ice and Embers: Steampunk Snow Queen by Melanie Karsak

Ice and Embers: Steampunk Snow Queen (Steampunk Fairy Tales Book 2) by [Melanie Karsak]

Synopsis:
It takes more than passion and pixie dust to thaw a frozen heart.

With the 1814 London Frost Fair in full swing, actress Elyse McKenna’s performance in A Midwinter Night’s Dream thrills the crowd. But Elyse’s backstage has life is beginning to take on a distinctly Shakespearean flavor.

When she fell in love with Lord John Waldegrave, Elyse was prepared to keep their affair secret. But she wasn’t ready for her new love to rock her relationship with her dearest friend, Doctor Kai Murray. 

Everything Elyse thought she knew about her feelings for her old friend is flipped upside down when an enchanting ship captain turns her attention to Kai.

If Elyse hopes to escape the Thames with her heart intact, she must discover the truth about the captain, Kai, John, and her own feelings—before it’s too late.

Ice and Embers is a retelling of the classic Snow Queen fairy tale set in New York Times best-selling author Melanie Karsak’s steampunk universe. Journey to gaslamp London during the 19th century to see how Melanie puts a steampunk spin in this reimagined fairytale.

Review:
I put off reading this, in major part because Snow Queen isn’t one of the fairy tales I’m overly familiar with, but I was pleasantly surprised by how very well done this was. I quite enjoyed the behind the scenes looks at being in the theatre and being a doctor/doctor’s assistant, but it greatly annoyed me with how many times pirouetting across the stage was mentioned, since pirouettes do not travel but rotate in place. Other than the dancing descriptions being off, I thought the story was overall lovely.

I loved how Elyse was so innocent and naive, despite being in a position where she’d see these roles and situations on a regular basis. I truly loved how A Midsummer Night’s Dream (and Shakespeare in general) was entwined with the book. If you love steampunk, Shakespeare, fairytales, dance and romance, I’d recommend this book for sure.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Witch for Hire by Molly Fitz

Witch for Hire (Paranormal Temp Agency Book 1) by [Molly Fitz]

Synopsis:
My name is Tawny Bigford. I’m 35, single, and I love hot showers. Seriously, all I wanted was a hot shower to start my day off right, but when I went to confront my landlady about the broken plumbing, I wound up talking to her corpse instead.

Now everyone thinks I’m to blame for her murder—not the best way to make an impression on the new neighbors, let me tell you. But how can I prove I’m innocent when I know practically nothing about the woman I supposedly killed?

Especially not the fact that she was the official Beech Grove Town Witch. Her former boss—a snarky black cat named Mr. Fluffikins—says I have to fill her vacated role until the real killer can be caught and brought to justice.

So, whether I like it or not, I’ve just been recruited to the Paranormal Temp Agency. Now I need to solve my landlady’s murder, figure out how to wield my newly granted powers, and maybe even find a way to fit in around here.

Yup. All in a day’s work for this novice witch.

Review:
This was a light, quick read and very well written. Easy to fall into, chapters were nice, concise and gripping. There wasn’t a lot of time wasted with flowery words or unimportant details. Everything flowed well and quickly, and the chapters really flew by. It seemed to take next to no time to read this book, even though it is 214 pages (though maybe that’s because I’ve been reading so many 400+ epic novels lately). There was constantly a reason for wanting to turn the page, and no time time.

Naturally I quite adored that Molly Fitz chose an author as the protagonist! How fun is that! That made it even more enjoyable for me. What made this book even more relatable is that Tawny admits to being a flawed individual with a broken relationship in the past, who is single, and 35. I suspect there are many like myself that wonder why there are no adventures or fun stories once you get to around the 30+ age and are female, except those of being a mother. It was so much fun to have a protagonist who is a bit eccentric but still living life.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Voyage by Camille Peters

Voyage (The Kingdom Chronicles Book 6) by [Camille Peters]

Synopsis:
Princess Seren has always expected her life to be one of duty and order, and her upcoming marriage alliance is no exception: she’ll sail to Bytamia to marry the crown prince as expected. But what she doesn’t expect is for the voyage to her new life to be delayed by the whims of an enchanted map and an adventure to a mystical island rumored to contain a legendary treasure.

She especially doesn’t expect—nor does she appreciate—the unwanted attentions of the charming yet infuriating captain who seems determined to befriend her and who also possesses the uncanny ability to see beyond the mask she’s always shown the world. Seren feels her careful control rapidly slipping away as the captain breaks down her defenses one by one, forcing her to face her fears and vulnerabilities and causing her to experience feelings she’s never felt before.

But this voyage will soon involve more than ships, treasure, and a far-too-endearing and persistent captain; it will also lead Seren on a journey that will allow her to heal, discovering both her own true worth and the greatest treasure of all: love. But is love even possible with the duty Seren must perform, a duty that just may be her last chance to redeem herself?

Inspired by “King Thrushbeard”

Review:
I was quite worried that King Thrushbear would be about Lavena, and no one really wants to read about her!

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this story, because Seren was known for being nasty. Once you get to know her deeper and understand why she’s so flawed, it becomes easier to resonate with her. Unlike the other flawed females, I felt like Seren had a much deeper reason for feeling as she did, given how her family had treated her. I loved Ronan from the start, and I absolutely loved that he didn’t intentionally try to deceive Seren. I quite loved how everything developed between them and the epic journey they went on. There was such growth of both protagonists during the novel and I quite loved it, especially how true to the real world the journey felt/read.

Quite enjoyed it, and looking forward to reading more in this series as they come out!

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯



Review of Reflection by Camille Peters

Reflection (The Kingdom Chronicles Book 4) by [Camille Peters]

Synopsis:
Princess Rheanna’s self-esteem shattered when her former fiancé unexpectedly ended their betrothal. Years later, the rejection continues to haunt her, and now that she’s faced with yet another unwanted political engagement, Rhea will do anything to avoid another heartache.

When a mysterious lure draws Rhea to an abandoned turret of the palace, she discovers a magic mirror and is shocked to find a snarky man trapped inside. Although she agrees to help break Drake’s curse, things quickly grow complicated, for not only does she begin to fall in love with him, but breaking a curse proves quite difficult when she herself feels trapped––by her own self-doubts.

Rhea and Drake’s relationship sets in motion a series of events that threaten both herself and her kingdom. As she seeks to unmask the evil within the palace and overcome the poisonous doubts consuming her mind, Rhea must make a difficult choice between the path she’s expected to walk and the man she’s forbidden to love. But the more time she spends with Drake, the less convinced she becomes that doing her duty will be worth the sacrifice it will cost her heart.

Inspired by “Snow White”

Review:
I didn’t think I was going to like this book. I didn’t really like Rhea because she has such poor self esteem and self worth, but the further into the story we got, while I didn’t resonate with her particular situation, it became apparent why she thought that way. What really drew me into this story was Drake, and his snark. This is a double redemption book, in which both protagonists need to learn and grow.

I really liked how much honour and duty to one’s kingdom and subjects played in this novel, especially because it would be something that, even as a third or fourth heir, you have to keep in mind if you were royal. I did think there were several plot twists that were noticeable far before Rhea discovered them, but given she was emotional and distraught it can be forgiven.

I’ve never encountered a retelling of Snow White that had this type of twist, and I quite loved it. I absolutely loved the ending, and I think that the couple is incredibly sweet and perfect together.

SPOILER:
I definitely thought that the goblet was cursed, and I was somewhat sad that it was such a normal issue instead.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Identity by Camille Peters

Identity (The Kingdom Chronicles Book 3) by [Camille Peters]

Synopsis:
Anwen’s uncanny resemblance to Princess Lavena has been a curse since the moment she entered her service, as the spoiled princess has frequently used it to her advantage by forcing Anwen to switch places with her. But Princess Lavena’s latest scheme is her worst—and most dangerous—yet: compelling Anwen to take the princess’s place in her marriage to her loathed fiancé, Prince Liam.

Bound by an enchanted contract not to reveal the charade, Anwen is forced to go through with the masquerade and endure a marriage to a man who despises the woman he believes her to be. As time goes on, Anwen struggles not only to maintain her identity, but to fight her deepening feelings as she begins to fall in love with her new husband, a man who not only isn’t hers to keep, but who has no idea who she really is.

Inspired by “The Goose Girl”

Review:
Maybe Liam is a bit like Rosie, but this story was by far one of the best. There were constant stakes, and while you were rooting for Anwen you cannot help but think like her about her situation and how it might turn out. Liam loves stories and adventures, and while he might start off cold and fierce, he becomes oh so easy to love. The tension between Liam and Anwen is delicious, and I cannot recommend this sweet book enough. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in The Kingdom Chronicles and hope they continue to delight me more and more, as the ones I’ve read so far have done.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis:
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm―and even the monster within―to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Review:
This book gave us a chance to see some old faces from previous novels in the Grishaverse as well as a deeper understanding of both Nikolai’s desires and intentions for the future and Zoya’s past, and how that influenced the demeanor she’s known for. Both Nikolai and Zoya have to fight who they are to get to who they want and need to become to help both their country and themselves.

Nina’s story truly begins in this book, and I absolutely adored the journey she takes. While there are some things I was left a bit sad about, overall, it is perfect and like nothing I ever would have imagined. There were many times that I had hoped, expected, wanted her to do the rash thing she was known for, but somehow, she managed to be a bit more cautious and the end result was glorious. I can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever get to be truly herself again, or at least tailored to be a bit more like what she had been naturally.

While the ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, by now I somewhat expect these books to continue, and I look forward to what I imagine will be a continuation of the Grishaverse.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of King of Scars by Leigh Bargudo

King of Scars (King of Scars Duology Book 1) by [Leigh Bardugo]

Synopsis:
Face your demons…or feed them. The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, Nikolai must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha general, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Review:
This book took me forever to get through. There was nothing necessarily wrong with it, but it was long, and a large part is due to not liking one of the characters that is a primary force in it. I did grow to like the character by the end, and was wishing and hoping for happy endings, but of course it is a duology so hopefully such things will be answered in book 2 (which I am currently more than halfway done, having not written this review immediately after finishing the previous one). I’m certain I had a lot of things to say, that I don’t quite recall now, but I’ll do my best.

I really enjoyed how this continued with characters we knew from previous books in the same grishaverse. I love Nikolai and I’ve wanted him to have a happy ending since the first three books (I was team Nikolai all the way in the Alina/Mal/Darkling/Nikolai debate). Seeing Nikolai as he struggles to find himself and his place was great, and while I really might not have liked her to start, getting to see more of Zoya and perhaps understand a bit of all that she was dealing with was good too.

One of my biggest issues with the end of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom was poor Nina and Matthias. In my head, I immediately thought then that Nina and Nikolai would end up together. Alas, that does not appear to be, but I do hope she ends up happy and free.

On to finishing Rule of Wolves…

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯

Review of Spelled by Camille Peters

Spelled (The Kingdom Chronicles Book 2) by [Camille Peters]

Synopsis:
Rosie is fairly certain that there’s nothing wrong with putting a love spell on a foreign prince. At least she hopes there’s not, because such a drastic measure is necessary in order for her to ensure that the perfect fairy tale romance she’s dreamt about her entire life includes her own prince charming. As the heroine in her story, she won’t be deterred by well-meaning friends, royal betrothals, hungry dragons, or the intriguing guard who stands in her way.

Luckily, Rosie has access to an enchanted bakery and a recipe book of spells, one of which will ensure she’ll win the royal heart she desires. Unfortunately, no story is complete without a few obstacles, and Rosie’s comes in the form of a most formidable foe—a stoic guard whom Rosie may or may not be developing feelings for, one who is committed to thwarting her at every turn. But nothing will stand in the way of Rosie’s happily ever after. After all, what harm can a simple love spell do?

Inspired by “The Frog Prince”

Review:
Oh my goodness, this was by far one of the cutest books I’ve read in a long time. The story is written from the standpoint of Rosie, and while one might have thought that the book would follow the footsteps of the the first book in the Kingdom Chronicles (review here) the heroine is so different that the entire world seems different. She isn’t cautious and standoffish, shy, like Eileen, but bold and full of stories. As a fellow hopeless romantic, always lost in my mind, a book, my own characters and stories, I absolutely adored seeing things from Rosie’s perspective, especially all of the stories. While I did think a few things were too obvious, Rosie doesn’t really tend to consider things beyond if they went the way she wanted them to. While being a protagonist is fun, especially if you’re trying to become a main character in your own story, this book does a brilliant job of showing risk versus reward, and reminding the reader that whether or not you’ve thought through what may happen, there are always consequences to actions, and one must be ready to take them– good and bad.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Pathways by Camille Peters

Pathways (The Kingdom Chronicles Book 1) by [Camille Peters]

Synopsis:
Eileen has never been interested in love. Ever since her father’s abandonment, she’s vowed to never experience such pain again. But the enchanted forest has different ideas. When the continuously shifting pathways lead her to a mysterious stranger, Eileen finds her promise to fiercely guard her heart increasingly difficult to keep.

One night when she becomes lost in a storm, the enchanted forest’s pathways lead her to the castle, home to the kingdom’s Dark Prince, where Eileen finds herself entangled in what many consider an opportunity but which Eileen believes to be a curse: competing for the Dark Prince’s hand through a series of tests that judge one’s royal worth. Eileen is neither royal nor interested in becoming a princess. But the mysterious stranger she met in the woods has his own reasons for helping her succeed, although the cost of his assistance may be too high: that of Eileen’s heart, the one thing she’s vowed never to give.

Inspired by “The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstiltskin”

Review:
I started this book at random on the kindle, not remembering the description, having found another book I’d gotten 42% of the way through lackluster. I am so unbelievably happy I did! While there were definitely Princess and the Pea and Rumpelstiltskin vibes, I absolutely adored the Forest (perhaps because growing up I spent a lot of time buried inside one myself). The tranquility and need to escape really connected both of them, and I was curious to see how Eileen’s walls would be shattered or rebuilt. I absolutely loved the “cost” of things, and how she gave in, despite not knowing the man she met in the forest, and technically never having bargained or agreed to anything for help he freely gave her. The way he carefully spoke was brilliant, as was her attention to details as she ended up caught up trying to become a princess, even if she didn’t want to. I definitely felt some Ever After vibes during their meetings, given how outspoken she was when they were alone in the forest. Greatly enjoyed!

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯