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 Enchantment by Camille Peters

Enchantment (The Kingdom Chronicles Book 5) by [Camille Peters]

Synopsis:
When Maren runs away from the threat of a forced marriage, the last place she expects to end up is the Malvagarian Palace, home to the enchanted gardens, a cursed prince, and a magical rose that traps her there. Crown Prince Briar isn’t pleased to be stuck with a troublesome guest, especially one as mischievous and curious as Maren. She, on the other hand, is determined to escape, but instead finds herself inconveniently falling in love with him. Despite her lack of beauty, feelings steadily blossom between her and the prince.

Their budding romance is soon threatened when sinister magic begins to eclipse the enchanted gardens, a darkness which quickly spreads not only to the kingdom, but to the king himself. In order to stop it, Briar and Maren will both be forced to make a heart-wrenching sacrifice, only to realize that the gardens’ requirements may prove too high a price.

Inspired by Beauty and the Beast

Review:
So as we all know, I’m a sucker for enchanted roses. I’d been wondering and wondering where Briar would fall in this series, torn between the Beast and some odd hybrid of Sleeping Beauty, but my first inclination was correct. I was so glad to see that back home Briar has a slightly different demeanor and personality, as he was rather drained and unpleasant in Reflection. Maren, however, I wasn’t sure I would like. From the beginning, her self esteem issues were a bit annoying, though understandable given her father never showed her love. It was frustrating that despite constantly saying that she was used to it her actions proved that she cared far too much about other’s opinions on her “beauty” or lack thereof. Despite this, I quite enjoyed her quips and how prepared she always was to get into both mischief and not let others tell her falsehoods. I could resonate quite soundly with doing all sorts of things like Maren, however, my interests were always nourished and encouraged by family, and when others would make me doubt myself, it generally made me even more determined to become better at whatever it was.

I love the personification of the garden, and quite enjoy how Maren and Briar dance around each other. While originally hard to really understand Briar, Maren’s good nature prevails and his character is revealed in how he deals with tragedy as well as his own issues with self doubt. I also loved the background characters of Maren’s childhood, and how completely dastardly the men in her life reveal themselves to be.

I was so glad to see Prince Drake and Prince Rhea again but we were left with a lot of baggage regarding them that was never resolved. I do hope to see them and a resolution in a future book, though I’m not sure we’d see them in the next book about Seren (Aiden’s sister from the first book in the series, Pathways). Seren was almost as nasty as Lavena in this book, so while I originally thought the next book would be about Princess Lavena (featured in Identity) it is unsurprising to know that the King Thrushbeard story will fall to Seren.

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

Synopsis:
Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.
But then, the Devil once told me that it’s easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.
The problem with River West Redding was that he’d done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet’s life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River’s other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn’t long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . .

Review:
I’m so torn in what to say here. I love that we get an adventure, and there is so much up and down, but oh my goodness the ending is so openly ambiguous I can hardly stand it!

I love how these books take something from the past and meld it into the future, of how Violet feels as if she’s bound to repeat Freddie’s path in the past, but Violet is a very different person than the Freddie that we learn more about. I love all the characters, and in the end I was quite pleased with Violet’s choice, but I wish there was a more definitive (happy) ending, because there is so much left that could go wrong.

This book series is a whirlwind and I am not quite sure how to articulate all of my thoughts about it. I absolutely loved it and would highly recommend it. There are so many fantastic thriller/horror elements, and I definitely felt my fair share of H. P. Lovecraft vibes from this one, as well as a little bit of the uncertainty and ambiguity of V. C. Andrews.

Thank you, TikTok(BookTok). I absolutely loved these books.

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: ✯✯✯✯