Review: Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

Anna: Calling all feminists, outdoorsy people, and true crime readers. I know I’ve already posted about this book several times on the feed, but that’s because you should read it! 

Author Kathryn Miles, a hiker and journalist, investigates the 1996 murders of Julianne “Julie” Williams and Laura “Lollie” Winans. Julie and Lollie were seasoned hikers who were backpacking along the AT when they were found murdered in their sleeping bags. Miles tells Julie and Lollie’s story and advocates for bringing their killer to justice. First, she has to find him. She also exposes a plethora of corruption in the investigation, from convicting the wrong suspect to outing Julie and Lollie as gay to the world and to their families. And the conclusion that Miles comes to in the end about what really happened is truly haunting. 

Miles does a good job of centering this on Julie and Lollie’s story instead of sensationalizing the crime, which can be a big problem in the true crime genre. She also extensively interviewed those close to Julie and Lollie and is dedicated to telling both their stories. By the end, I felt as if I’d lost two close friends. 

This book hits close to home in so many ways. Shenandoah is a local national park, where I hike frequently (although I’m nowhere near as outdoorsy as Julie and Lollie were). I’ve never been concerned for my safety there, even when hiking with just one other woman. I don’t think I’ll feel the same way next time I visit.

Julie and Lollie felt safe in the woods. We expect our Natural Parks to be a sanctuary. But the truth is that nowhere is safe, especially for women.

Verdict: 4.5/5 stars

Anna’s April Wrap Up

I read some truly great books in April! I don’t have a negative thing to say about any of them.

If I Had Your Face-Follows the interconnected lives of four women. Largely about the impossible beauty standards of women, especially in Korean culture.

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders– The story of two women and lovers who were murdered and the fight for justice around their deaths. A scary realization that even our national parks aren’t a safe place to be a woman.

Sea of Tranquility – Emily St.John Mandel’s newest book is just as amazing as everyone is saying it is. You won’t know what’s truly going on until the end, and I loved the touch of scifi. 

Audiobooks:

A Far Wilder Magic– Cozy magic with just enough small town politics and romance. My second Alison Saft book of the year. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

The Push– the best thriller I’ve read this year. This will make you terrified to be a parent.

Review: Daughter of the Drowned Empire by Frankie Diane Mallis

Alexis:

Daughter of the Drowned Empire is a NA fantasy that follows Lyriana, who is third in line to the Seat of Power in Bamaria. She hopes to be a mage after her ceremony, when her magic will be announced and unleashed, but she has a secret—her two older sisters both have illegal magic.⁣

⁣It took me a little while to get into the beginning of this, so I highly recommend checking out the glossary in the back first to get a handle on the worldbuilding. There’s also a love triangle that I was feeling iffy about. But once the plot got rolling, I was hooked!

This was a fun book that ended up being fairly complex. I liked the themes of love, sisterhood, and staying true to yourself. I enjoyed Lyriana’s character arc, and I can’t wait to see where Mallis takes her next.

⁣Overall, the character development was well done and this was a fun read. I can’t wait for the sequel!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 ⁣

Review: Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Alexis holds a copy of Edgewood- green with a girl wearing a purple dress and holding a dagger- in front of a bookshelf.

Alexis:

Another 5 ⭐ review!

Edgewood is a new adult fantasy that has everything I love in a book: atmospheric writing, creepy woods, and a dynamic love interest. 

There were two really great themes woven throughout this book. The first is music. Emeline, the main character, is a nineteen-year-old singer, trying to tour and get her foot in the door of the music world. I loved how music played a magical role in this book.

The second is memory. Emeline’s grandfather, who she calls Pa, is suffering from dementia. Ciccarelli bases his character on her own grandfather who suffered from dementia, and so she writes Pa with care, and her grief comes through in her writing. The themes of forgetting and remembering play a critical role in the story.

There’s also a Wood King, a city deep in the woods, a curse, and interesting creatures that appear in the story. And I found Hawthorne, the love interest, to be a well-rounded and mysterious yet warmhearted character. 

My only critique is that there were a couple of minor storylines that I think could’ve been explored further. However, I enjoyed this story immensely and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something atmospheric and full of forest imagery and magical music.

(And it doesn’t hurt that the whole book is beautiful!)

Review: Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier

Alexis holds Year of the Reaper in front of a plant and a solar-powered metal cactus.

Alexis: 5 ⭐ review!

Year of the Reaper follows Cas, a young lord who is finally on his way home after being held as a prisoner for three years and surviving a plague. When someone targets the royal family, Cas finds himself teaming up with Lena, a historian, to find the mysterious assassin. 

I loved this book! Cas is such a great main character. He’s flawed and scarred from his time as a prisoner, and his story deals with him trying to move on from his past. He also spends time reuniting with his older brother, and I enjoyed their relationship. 

There are so many interesting facets to this story. The story is set in a medieval fantasy world that’s based on both the Pacific Islands and the black plague. While it’s a low fantasy world, Cas is now able to see ghosts—which I read as a symbol/physical manifestation of his survival with the deadly plague. 

A majority of the book also deals with not only the aftermath of the plague, but a long war that has finally come to an end.

The characters are well-rounded, and I enjoyed the dynamic between Cas (grump) and Lena (sunshine). There’s also the “who hurt you?” trope, but it was very well done. My only small critique is that I feel like the title doesn’t fit the story that well.

If you’re looking for a fun, multi-faceted YA fantasy/mystery that also deals with some dark themes and trauma, then I recommend picking this one up!

Review: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Anna: What would you do for love?

This is How You Lose the Time War is the most imaginative book I’ve read in a long time. It reminded me why sci-fi  is such an amazing genre that I need to explore more. It also has LGBTQ+ rep!

Summary: Red and Blue are change agents who work for rival time traveling agencies–Blue for the Garden, a vast organic consciousness. Red works for the Agency, a Technotopia. While traveling to different “strands” of history and time to change history, they start to write each other letters and slowly fall in love.

The actual rules and word building in This is How You Lose the Time War is super confusing at first and very slowly revealed to the reader. I didn’t know what was going on for a while, but that’s okay. This book is more about the lyrical writing and the vivid, visceral images of time traveling and Red and Blue’s romance that literally stands the test of time. This is ultimately a “star-crossed” lovers narrative, but it’s not tropey at all. This book takes work to get through, but it’s rewarding and worth it.

I also think it’s so cool that this book was co-written! As a writer, I can’t imagine creating such a complex world and story in the first place, but also doing it so seamlessly with another writer.

Verdict: 4 stars

Review: This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

Alexis holds This Woven Kingdom in a coffee shop next to her laptop and wooden chairs.

Alexis:

Happy Sunday, everyone! I’ve been enjoying reading and writing in coffee shops lately. I’ve always loved their atmospheres (and plus having some good green tea and a peach danish always helps, too).

I just finished reading This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi. Mafi’s writing is absolutely beautiful and atmospheric. Just on a writing level, this book was a joy to read. I absolutely loved her descriptions of the landscape and the world. It was so vibrant and lovely on the page, and it made her worldbuilding of the Persian mythology inspired world great.

This Woven Kingdom has two POVs: Alizeh, the long lost princess of the Jinn kingdom, who became a servant to hide after the murder of her parents, and Kamran, the crowned prince. I thought Mafi’s characterization of both main characters was great, but I especially enjoyed Alizeh’s chapters. 

All that being said, this is a very slow moving book, and if you haven’t picked up on it yet, I love slow moving books. But while the worldbuilding and characters are so well-established, barely anything happens in this book, and it’s over 500 pages long! Besides what happens in the end, the only main plot point is some insta-love. 

Overall, this book felt like one long set up for the next one in the series, but I’m interested to see what happens in the next one.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.75 

Review: A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

Alexis holds A River Enchanted in front of a bookshelf. She's wearing a rust red cardigan.

Alexis: 

A River Enchanted was the last book I read in February. It’s a Scottish inspired folktale fantasy with a historical fantasy type feel. The story is set on the magical island of Cadence, which is divided in half by two feuding clans, and where spirits rule the isle. 

The story follows multiple POVs: Jack, a harp player who is called back to Cadence after 10 years of studying music on the mainland; Adaira, the Heiress of the East; Sidra, a healer, and her husband Torin, the chief of the guard.

The aspect of this book that I love the most is the writing. Ross’ writing is lush and lyrical. This book is very atmospheric, and the island itself seems to live and breathe on the page like its own character. I also enjoyed the emphasis on music through Jack’s harp. 

I also really enjoyed getting to know the characters and all of their relationships to each other. Sidra and Torin really stood out to me, especially Sidra. I loved her character, and I felt like I understood her and got into her head and heart more than the other characters.

While I liked Jack and Adaira, I felt like they, and their relationship, paled in comparison to Sidra and Torin. 

This is a very slow-moving book, and thankfully I like slow-moving stories. It really takes its time building everything up—especially the mystery of girls on the island going missing.

It’s worth noting that this book was pitched as House of Earth and Blood meets The Witch’s Heart. While I haven’t read the latter, House of Earth and Blood is a strange comparison title. Literally the only thing these two books have in common is fae, but they’re called spirits in A River Enchanted and are very different from Maas’ fae. 

My biggest critique of this book is that I wasn’t a fan of the melodramatic ending. This could have been a five star book if it had ended differently.

This is a beautifully written story, and if you like historical fantasy with lush, almost cozy fantasy vibes (and a gorgeous book cover) then you might like this one!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

A copy of House of Sky and Breath lays on a gray blanket, with House of Blood and Earth above it, next to an Aquarius candle.

Alexis:

SPOILER FREE REVIEW 

The first book in the Crescent City series, House of Earth and Blood, is my all-time favorite Sarah J. Maas book. I know my initial review of it on here was a little bit critical, but I’ve re-read it multiple times now, and it gets better every time, and just hits me right in the feels!

I know the book world was hyped about the release of the sequel, House of Sky and Breath, but you can bet I was hyped about it, too!

What I didn’t like so much: 

I think House of Sky and Breath suffers a little bit from second book syndrome in that I can tell everything in this book is setting up big events to happen in the next one. 

One of the sex scenes had some information that 100% should have been left out, because it took me out of the scene and was frankly unnecessary and unsexy. 

While HOEAB focuses primarily on the two main characters, Bryce and Hunt, HOSAB bounces around more between the side characters. Maas focuses especially on Ruhn, Bryce’s brother; Tharion, a mer; and Ithan, Connor’s little brother. 

The multiple POVs bogged the story down. I found myself not caring about Tharion’s POV at all (sorry, Tharion). And I missed the focus being on Bryce and Hunt.

Now, on to the rest!

What I liked:

While I did enjoy Ithan’s POV, the only secondary character I really connected with was Ruhn! He’s such a good character, and I’m excited to see how he progresses in the next book, too. I also really enjoyed the funny scenes in this book.

Also, as Maas teased, THE ENDING. She tied so many details and plot points together, it was actually insane. I had to zone out for a while in shock after finishing this book. I haven’t slept well in a week, and it’s all because of this book! 

But that’s all I can say about that without spoiling anything. 

Who knows, maybe when I re-read this one, I’ll have a different opinion. But for now, the first ¾ of the story was about 3.5 stars, and the last ¼ of the story was 5 stars.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Alexis holds a library copy of A Conjuring of Light above a deck and wire table.

Alexis: I finished the Shades of Magic series!

Actually, I finished A Conjuring of Light, the third book. But Schwab announced recently that she plans on writing more books in the series!

I think this one was my favorite. All of the plot points came together in the end, and the pace picked up. I loved how all of the characters we met throughout the series finally got together.

I think the minor POVs could have been cut out, as I found myself skimming them.

However, I liked how Kell and Lila’s characters turned out, especially. Lila felt a lot less of a pick me girl than the previous two books, thankfully.

I really enjoyed reading this one, and I’m glad I finally read this book-world favorite.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5