Review: Defend the Dawn by Brigid Kemmerer

Alexis holds a copy of Defend the Dawn in front of bookshelves in a bookstore.

Alexis: 

Did this book just come out on Tuesday? Yes. Did I binge read it and finish it today? Also yes. 

Defy the Night is one of my favorite books, so it’s safe to say that Defend the Dawn was one of my most anticipated reads. And I’m happy to say it did not disappoint.

Defend the Dawn brings even more political intrigue, plot twists, and morally gray characters. I was constantly second-guessing what I knew about character motivations.⁣

⁣While the middle moves a little slowly, in classic second book fashion, I still really enjoyed it. I love both of the main characters, Tessa and Corrick. I loved reading about their messy emotions and relationship. I also really enjoyed getting to know Corrick’s brother, King Harristan, better, and I love his brotherly relationship with Corrick.

While Defy the Night only has 2 POVs, a third POV is sprinkled into Defend the Dawn. I found that it worked really well for the story, especially since Tessa and Corrick are on a ship for the majority of the book.  ⁣

⁣And then of course, we have the ending. The appropriate reaction is “ahhh!!” It was so action-packed and I loved it, but of course it ended on a cliffhanger. Now I have to wait and see what happens, and I’m an impatient reader!

If you still haven’t picked up this series, it’s a New Adult fantasy series filled with politics, a rebellion, a pandemic, outlaws stealing for the sick, and of course a dash of romance. It’s also low fantasy, so if you want a fantasy without magic, then this is the series for you.

⁣VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

Review: The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague sits on a gray blanket next to a small white pumpkin and a dilute calico cat.

Alexis:

The Lights of Prague is a historical fantasy set in (you guessed it) Prague in the mid 1800s, right after gas lamps are introduced to the city. ⁣

⁣It follows Domek, a lamplighter who also fights monsters—like the pijavice (vampires)—and Ora, a wealthy, badass, and secretive widow.

⁣This book has a will-o’-the-wisp, monster hunting, philosophical musings, alchemy, and beautiful descriptions of Prague. ⁣

While I liked Domek’s character in the beginning, Ora quickly became my favorite. She had an interesting backstory and was flawed and well-rounded. 

⁣My only con was that the plot felt slow moving, which meant I found myself leisurely reading this instead of my usual binge-reading. Despite the high stakes, I didn’t feel like the plot had quite enough urgency. Because of this, I liked this book, but I wasn’t as obsessed with it as I had hoped.

I still enjoyed it overall, and if you’re looking for a historical fantasy with vampires, then check it out; it’s the perfect read to ease into fall.

VERDICT: 🧛🧛🧛.5/5

Review: Hall of the Hopeless by Haley D. Brown

On a wooden railing, a bottle of mango kombucha rests next to a Kindle in front of green grass

Hall of the Hopeless follows Thea, a Fae who lives with her adopted human family…until they’re abducted by slave traders.

Thea’s search for her family leads her to Gar, an assassin who tells Thea that her family’s abductor is Hrokr, the cold and cruel Lord of the northern Hall. Gar has plans both to liberate Hrokr’s slaves—and destroy his entire kingdom.

But Thea is harboring a secret that could change everything: she is Thea Starsea, the missing Heir of the fallen Hall of Aphaedia.

The story starts off with a bang! Right away, we learn Thea’s backstory and motivation. The beginning is action-packed and heart wrenching, and I really felt for Thea. Moments of the story and Thea’s character gave me Throne of Glass vibes, which I was here for.

I found her to be a great and balanced main character. Yes, she’s a fighter and a badass, but Brown doesn’t shy away from revealing her feelings, innermost fears, anxiety, and rage.

I especially enjoyed reading Brown’s fighting scenes. And the ending! Prepare for plot twists. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next and to learn even more about the secondary characters and their motivations. 

Thanks so much to Haley D. Brown for sending me an e-ARC for review.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Expected publication date: December 1, 2022

Review: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Alexis is wearing a yellow flannel and holding the UK copy of Unraveller in front of a black bookshelf.

Alexis:

I would read Frances Hardinge’s grocery list if she let me; she’s one of my auto-buy authors. I’m also obsessed with this spooky cover (despite my dislike of spiders!). ⁣

This was the perfect read to ease into autumn. In classic Hardinge fashion, Unraveller is beautifully and darkly atmospheric. I’ve always been obsessed with her writing style. And the world is unique and features a creepy forest/swamp called the Wilds and spider-like creatures called the Little Brothers. ⁣

The story follows Kellen, a rare unraveller of curses, and Nettle, a girl who was formerly cursed to become a heron, as they work to unravel nasty curses—and uncover plots and mysteries along the way. ⁣

Unraveller reads like part dark fairytale and part mystery, and of course it’s a 5 ⭐ read for me. ⁣

I bought the UK edition, but look out for Unraveller in the US on January 10, 2023! ⁣

Review: Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Alexis:

Since I’m unfortunately recovering from lung surgery, I decided that continuing with my rom com binge and sticking to more lighthearted reads might be a good idea. 

I read The Love Hypothesis earlier this year and was pleasantly surprised. The writing was easy and accessible and the story was funny and heartwarming. 

Needless to say, I picked up Love on the Brain. And I have to admit…I’m a little baffled.

Was this fun to read? Yes. Like its predecessor, Love on the Brain contains so much interesting science talk (as well as a focus on neuroscience) and you can tell Hazelwood knows what she’s talking about. 

That being said, I got major déjà vu when reading this book. I kept thinking, “Have I read this before?” There were so, so many scenes, moments, and plot points that were almost the exact same as The Love Hypothesis. 

Now: yes, I am aware that both books started out as Reylo fanfic (but I like to keep an open mind!). So I knew there would be some similarities. However, both of the main characters, Bee and Levi, were nearly carbon copies of the main characters in The Love Hypothesis, except Bee somehow managed to be a more unhinged version of Olive. 

At least I liked Levi’s character. But there was also a plot point at the end that was honestly so ridiculous that it made the story unredeemable for me. 

Final thoughts: It started off as a fun read, but I wasn’t able to enjoy or get sucked into the story because it was just a worse version of The Love Hypothesis.

Review: Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel

Anna: This scratched an itch in my reader brain that hasn’t been scratched in a while—that’s the only way I can really describe it! 

Other People’s Clothes follows Zoe, an art student who studies abroad in Berlin for a year to get away from her life in New York. Zoe is dealing with the recent unsolved murder of her best friend, Ivy. In Berlin she meets Hailey, also an art student from her college in New York, and they agree to sublet a famous mystery writer’s apartment. But something isn’t right about the apartment, and the girls think someone may be watching them. 

This is literally everything I could want in a book—literary fiction but with mystery and thriller elements. It explores mental health, being a creative person, and the unique experiences (and loneliness) of studying abroad, discovering your sexuality, and generally figuring out yourself in college. But above all, Other People’s Clothes explores the unique relationship between roommates. I don’t think the writing style is for everyone, but it really worked for me. My only critique is that the ending was a bit too long. But I’d rather an ending be too longer rather than too short. All in all, this was a solid debut.

VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Someone please recommend me more books in this vein!

Also, my husband and I are moving in just a few short weeks, hence the boxes! My books and bookshelves are in a state of disarray. I’m going to miss the built in bookshelf in this apartment so much…

Review: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

A hand holds a yellow can of mango Bubbly sparkling water next to a Kindle, which rests on both a gray blanket and a black and whtie blanket.

Alexis:

I recently read The Unhoneymooners, which is undoubtedly the most popular of Christina Lauren’s books. And I really enjoyed it. It was the perfect beach read, and there were definitely a lot of actual laugh-out-loud moments.

So I decided to pick up Love and Other Words. And it’s definitely my favorite of the writing duo known as Christina and Lauren.

The story follows two different timelines. In modern day, Macy is a busy pediatrics resident stuck in a routine relationship. Back when she’s thirteen, Macy is struggling to deal with her mom’s recent death when she strikes a friendship with bookish Elliot. Eventually, their relationship becomes more. But in the present timeline, Macy has been estranged from Elliot for a decade, and when she unexpectedly runs into him, she has to face both him and her past.

The alternating timelines work really well for the story. Macy and Elliot’s characters already have a lot of tension between them, but the timelines and the mystery of what happened to their relationship ups the tension even more.

Part of why I loved this book was the past timeline. Reading about their growing friendship feels so realistic, sweet, and sometimes awkward, but true to their characters and to life. Their shared love of books and words makes for a solid foundation and a fun story to read.

As for the modern timeline, both Macy and Elliot are absolute messes, and it was both fun and heartbreaking to read. 

I only have two critiques, and one is relatively small. As a Greek American, I was excited to read about Elliot Petropoulos. I loved reading about his family’s dynamic, but I thought there was a missed chance to explore his Greek identity, even if it was just a little bit. His family didn’t even have spanakopita or baklava when they hosted Thanksgiving! There was a mention of peeling potatoes that I thought might have been a nod to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I kept waiting for him or his family members to make a joke about being Greek.  

The other is the reveal/plot twist at the end, which was definitely an…interesting choice. The ending really needed to be expanded on in order to give both Elliot and Macy more time to unpack what happened and really deal with their trauma, especially Elliot.  

That being said, this story about childhood sweethearts made me feel all the feels. I found myself wholly engrossed in the writing and in Macy and Elliot’s story and relationship.

VERDICT: 5⭐s

Review: Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

Alexis holds a library copy of Ordinary Monsters in front of green grass and a stretch of white flowers.

Alexis:

Ordinary Monsters is Charles Dickens meets X-Men.

This massive book (at 672 pages) is set in Victorian England, as well as Scotland, Tokyo, Mississippi, and other places, in the late 1880s. It follows magical children called talents who can manipulate flesh in different ways. It’s the job of a woman detective named Alice Quike and a man named Frank Coulton to find the children and bring them to Cairndale, an institute in Scotland–before the kids are caught by the man of smoke who’s hunting them. 

This book is crazy. There are many, many POVs, including Alice, Frank, and a slew of children including two main characters, kids named Marlowe and Charlie. 

The beginning of this book details the beginning of all of the kids’ lives. The kids all have something in common: they’re orphans. And most of them have struggled to survive and have faced discrimination and cruelty. 

On top of the many perspectives, the book also bounces back and forth between timelines.

The historical fiction aspect of the story is written extremely well. I could picture the sooty, grimy streets of London and the other cities. The characters also all speak distinctively; Miro does utilize dialects for several. Even though I’m not usually a fan of that, it does fit very well with the Dickenson feel of the book. The settings and time period also fit well with the depressing and dark nature of the story.

I’m honestly not sure how to rate this book. I did really enjoy the writing style, and despite the massive amount of POVs, I was interested in every character. The fight and action scenes were also written well. I loved Marlowe and Charlie’s characters the most.

Yet, I felt like the backstories could have been cut in half and I would’ve understood them just as well. Despite the copious amount of worldbuilding and character building, I was still a little confused about several aspects. Character motivations were muddled or often revealed late in the story (which was on purpose, sure, but sometimes didn’t work well for me). There was also a trope in the epilogue that I’m not a fan of.

That being said, if you like sweeping historical fantasies, I still think it’s worth a read! There were so many good scenes and the characters are all well-rounded.

Review: The Stellar Snow Job by Marie Howalt

A Starbucks cup with a London Fog latte rests on a black bookshelf next to a Kindle with The Stellar Snow Job on its screen.

Alexis: 

Happy National Book Lovers Day, everyone!

It’s no secret that I love books and that I’ve been getting more into sci-fi and space stories.

If you’re looking for a sci-fi novella set in space, I’ve got you covered.

The Stellar Snow Job follows Eddie, a pilot of her spaceship called the Colibri, and Richard, a private investigator, as they start a new job. It also follows Alannah, a travel writer. ⁣

⁣I loved the characters, and though the story had its darker moments, this is a fun, adventurous, and humorous story.

In between the POVs of Eddie, Richard, and Alannah, we also have snippets from Alannah’s travel writing. I loved these sections; I felt like they solidified the world even more and added commentary on humanity, a theme that was woven throughout the story. 

I was so impressed by the worldbuilding. In 158 pages, I felt like I knew the world better than some full-fledged novels I’ve read. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially Eddie, and there’s also queer rep and rep of an auditory processing disorder. ⁣

⁣Thank you so much to Marie Howalt for sending me an e-ARC in exchange for a review.

Look out for The Stellar Snow Job, out on August 27th 2022!

VERDICT: 5 ⭐s

Review: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

A kindle with Nettle & Bone lies on top of a notebook on a table beside a laptop and a Starbucks cup.

Alexis:

I have nothing bad to say about Nettle & Bone. This unique book follows Marra, a princess who has become a sort-of nun. After her older sister marries a cruel prince, Marra is determined to find a way to free her from her marriage–by planning to kill the prince.

Marra finds herself completing three impossible tasks: build a dog of bones; sew a cloak of nettles; capture moonlight in a jar. 

Marra sets off on her journey alongside a gravewitch and her demon chicken, a fairy godmother, and a disgraced ex-knight in order to save her sister.

While I wasn’t sure what was happening in the beginning of this book, which opens on Marra in a land of cannibals building a bone dog from a pit of bones, I loved this wild ride of a book.

It deals with a slew of dark themes (if regicide, abuse, and cannibals weren’t enough of a hint). It’s very much a dark, warped fairytale, and I loved it! Marra is socially awkward and isn’t sure how to respond in a lot of situations, and I loved her character. The whole cast of characters is quirky and hilarious.

There were some absolute gems when it came to lines in this book. For example:

“This won’t do,” said the dust-wife, the third or fourth day. “Your sister will have died of old age before we reach her, and I’ll be so bent over from sleeping on the ground that I’ll be cursing your prince’s kneecaps.”

“It’s a fool’s errand and we’ll probably all die,” said the dust-wife. “Oh, well then,” said Fenris. “I always enjoy those.”

An elderly woman, older than Agnes, went by. She was bent double under the weight of a basket and she went up the stairs twice as fast as either of them. Marra didn’t know if that was inspiring or depressing.

Nettle & Bone is for you if you want a dark fairytale and unique standalone read. (Did I mention there’s a bone dog and a demon chicken?)

VERDICT: 5 ⭐

TW: domestic/spousal abuse, both mental and physical; necromancy, the undead, and desecration of graves and bones; cannibalism; miscarriage and child loss; violence, injury and death; forcible tooth removal