Book Review: Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham


Title: Winterset Hollow

Author: Jonathan Edward Durham

Publisher: Credo House Publishers

Genre: Fantasy Horror

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, violence, torture, animal cruelty, blood, stabbings

Rating: ★★★★★

Book Links: Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis

Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle. Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book-a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It’s Barley Day . . . and you’re invited to the hunt.

Winterset Hollow is as thrilling as it is terrifying and as smart as it is surprising. A uniquely original story filled with properly unexpected twists and turns, Winterset Hollow delivers complex, indelible characters and pulse- pounding action as it storms toward an unforgettable climax that will leave you reeling. How do you celebrate Barley Day? You run, friend. You run.

Jonathan Edward Durham was born near Philadelphia in one of many rust-belt communities where he read voraciously throughout his youth. After attending the College of William & Mary, where he received a degree in neuroscience, Jonathan waded into the professional world before deciding he was better suited for more artistic pursuits. He now lives in California where he writes to bring a unique voice to the space between the timeless wonder of his favorite childhood stories and the pop sensibilities of his adolescent literary indulgences.

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Top 5 Tuesday: 2022 Reads


Top 5 Tuesday is a fun, weekly meme that asks you to pick 5 books that fit that week’s theme. It was created by Bionic Bookworm and is currently being hosted by Meeghan Reads. You should check out their wonderful blog for more details and the list of prompts!


Hello, reader!

It’s a lovely Tuesday here in New England and I’m with another Top 5 Tuesday post! And this one is focused on a great topic: my top five reads of 2022 (so far). Now, I did an entire post at the end of last year just listing all my five star reads because I didn’t want to have to choose. I’m bad at making decisions when it comes to favorite books, okay?! However, the tiny caveat of ‘so far’ works to make me feel less guilty about picking up five books to feature.

That being said, let’s get to my list!


#1. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

I gotta give a shout out to my first five star read of the year! Actually, this was the first book I read in 2022. Talk about starting my reading year off with a bang! This duology has been everywhere and I had an e-ARC that was staring at me accusingly from my Netgalley shelf. I’m so glad I finally picked it up because it was phenomenal! It was a fast-paced thrill ride through 1926 Shanghai and I fell in love with our two main characters, Juliette and Roma.


#2. The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

This is probably one of my biggest surprises of the year, so far. I had seen the cover of this book and that was enough to make me want to read it. I knew very little about the book before picking it up, so I had no idea what I was getting into. I then proceeded to devour it in one day! Which is an accomplishment for me as I’m typically a slow reader. This fantasy wrapped in a mystery was truly captivating and made me want to read everything this author has written.

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ARC Review: Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega

Title: Witchlings

Author: Claribel A. Ortega

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Content/Trigger Warnings: For a list of potential content and trigger warnings, check out this book’s page on BookTriggerWarnings.com

Rating: ★★★★★

Book Links:
Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis

A magical adventure for fans of Amari and the Night Brothers and Nevermoor, about three witchlings who must work together to do the impossible if they have any hope of earning their full powers.

Every year, in the magical town of Ravenskill, Witchlings who participate in the Black Moon Ceremony are placed into covens and come into their powers as full-fledged witches.

And twelve-year-old Seven Salazar can’t wait to be placed in the most powerful coven with her best friend! But on the night of the ceremony, in front of the entire town, Seven isn’t placed in one of the five covens. She’s a Spare!

Spare covens have fewer witches, are less powerful, and are looked down on by everyone. Even worse, when Seven and the other two Spares perform the magic circle to seal their coven and cement themselves as sisters, it doesn’t work! They’re stuck as Witchlings—and will never be able to perform powerful magic.

Seven invokes her only option: the impossible task. The three Spares will be assigned an impossible task: If they work together and succeed at it, their coven will be sealed and they’ll gain their full powers. If they fail… Well, the last coven to make the attempt ended up being turned into toads. Forever.

But maybe friendship can be the most powerful magic of all…

With action-packed adventure, a coven of quirky witchlings, Claribel A. Ortega’s signature humor and girl-power vibes, this middle grade Latine witch story is truly a modern classic.

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Mini Reviews: Recent Reads Edition

Hello, reader!

Because of who I am as a person, I am, once again, behind on reviews. I thought I’d take a moment to catch up with another edition of my mini reviews! This time, I’m focusing on three recent reads that I still need to put thought to paper (or keyboard) for since finishing them. These books are an eclectic mix, so there might be a little something for everyone here, haha.

That being said, let’s get to the reviews!


Title: Nothing But Blackened Teeth

Author: Cassandra Khaw

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Genre: Horror

CW/TW: For a list of content and trigger warnings, please check out BookTriggerWarnings.com

Rating: ★★★

Links:
Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::
Goodreads

Well, this was certainly… a book. With words. Lots of five dollar words that seemed a tad bit unnecessary, if I’m honest.

At the heart of this story is a ghostly tale of love and betrayal. Unfortunately, the ghost story is not the focus of this novel. I say “unfortunately” because the ghost/ghost story was the best part about this book! The focus, however, is on a bunch of the most unlikeable characters I’ve come across in awhile. I’m not saying I can’t enjoy a book that has unlikeable characters, but these characters came across as caricatures of their unlikeable traits. They all fell incredibly flat for me which, when the whole book is centered around them, didn’t make for an enjoyable experience.

However, where this book shined was in the atmospheric writing and the beautifully creepy ghostly elements. There are some gruesome scenes in this book that fix themselves in your mind as you’re reading with the way they are written. Definitely check trigger warnings before getting into this one! This author has an incredible talent for building tension and setting the tone of a horror novel. As I mentioned, if we had more of that and less a bunch of horrible people being horrible to each other, I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more.

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BBNYA Finalist Blog Tour: Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn

Hello, reader!

I’ve got yet another blog tour for you today, this one featuring one of the 10 finalists from last year’s Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA)! I got to read Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn as a 2021 panelist and absolutely fell in love with the book! Finding new favorites is one of the many reasons I love being a BBNYA panelist. This diverse fantasy was fast-paced, spell-binding, and so much fun. But, before I get into my tour stop, let me tell you more about BBNYA.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website www.bbnya.com or twitter @bbnya_official.

The sign-ups will soon be open for the 2022 BBNYA competition, be it for authors to enter their books, or for bloggers wanting to be part of the new panel, so keep your eyes peeled!!

As a note, I received this book to read and review as part of the 2021 BBNYA tours organised by the TWR Tour team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest. Now, let’s get into the post!


Book Details


  • Title: Our Bloody Pearl
  • Author: D.N. Bryn
  • Publication date: July 26th, 2018
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age group: Adult
  • Content/Trigger Warnings: For a list of potential content and trigger warnings, check out this book’s page on BookTriggerWarnings.com

Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::
Goodreads

Synopsis


The ocean is uncontrollable and dangerous. But to the sirens who swim the warm island waters, it’s a home more than worth protecting from the humans and their steam-propelled ships. Between their hypnotic voices and the strength of their powerful tails, sirens have little to fear.

That is, until the ruthless pirate captain, Kian, creates a device to cancel out their songs.

Perle was the first siren captured, and while all since have either been sold or killed, Kian still keeps them prisoner. Though their song is muted and their tail paralyzed, Perle’s hope for escape rekindles as another pirating vessel seizes Kian’s ship. This new captain seems different, with his brilliant smile and his promises that Kian will never again be Perle’s master. But he’s still a human, and a captor in his own way. The compassion he and his rag-tag human family show can’t be sincere… or can it?

Soon it becomes clear that Kian will hunt Perle relentlessly, taking down any siren in her path. As the tides turn, Perle must decide whether to run from Kian forever, or ride the forming wave into battle, hoping their newfound human companions will fight with them.

This adult fantasy novel featuring an nonbinary disabled protagonist is a voyage of laughter and danger where friendships and love abound and sirens are sure to steal—or eat—your heart.  

Trigger warnings: mild gore due to carnivorous sirens and sensations of drowning.

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Blog Tour: The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Hello, reader!

I’m excited to bring you a review today as part of my stop for a book tour run by Turn the Page Tours! This tour is celebrating a book that I actually picked up in my recent Book of the Month club box. It sounded so fascinating, I couldn’t resist. The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd is a mystery that is also a fantasy and it absolutely blew me away!

Before I get into the post, however, I want to send thanks to the Turn the Page Tours team and the publisher with providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for my participation with this tour and an honest review. It is always appreciated! Also, if you’d like to check out the other bookish creators helping out with the tour, you can find the full schedule here. Make sure to check out my Instagram post, as well, for a giveaway!

Alright, let’s get to the post!


Book Details


  • Title: The Cartographers
  • Author: Peng Shepherd
  • Publication date: March 15th, 2022
  • Genre: Mystery/Fantasy
  • Age group: Adult
  • Content/Trigger Warnings: Blood, violence, stalking, mental heath issues, obsession, cheating, fire, death, strained parent/child relationship

Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::
Goodreads

Synopsis


What is the purpose of a map?

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field, and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable, and also exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.

But why?

To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret, and discover the true power that lies in maps…

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Blog Tour: The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies

Hello, reader!

Today on the blog, it’s my stop on the blog tour run by The Write Reads for a fantastic gaslamp fantasy that absolutely captured my imagination: The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies! This book is filled with gods, mortals, and cHAoS. It’s ambitious, fast-paced, and dark and I loved it!

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Before I get further into this post, I want to thank a few people. First, I want to thank Dave @ The Write Reads and all the incredible people working behind the scenes for allowing me to be a part of this tour! I would also like to thank the author, Trudie Skies, for providing me with a free e-book in exchange for my participation with this tour and an honest review. It was very much appreciated.

Alright, let’s get into the post!


Book Details


  • Title: The Thirteenth Hour
  • Author: Trudie Skies
  • Publication date: October 13th, 2021
  • Genre: Fantasy/Gaslamp Fantasy
  • Age group: Adult
  • Content/Trigger Warnings: For a list of potential content and trigger warnings, check out this book’s page on BookTriggerWarnings.com

Amazon::Goodreads

Synopsis


When the saints fail, the sinners step up.

Cruel gods rule the steam-powered city of Chime, demanding worship and tribute from their mortal subjects. Kayl lost her faith in them long ago, and now seeks to protect vulnerable and downtrodden mortals from their gods’ whims. But when Kayl discovers powers that she didn’t know she had—and destroys a mortal’s soul by accident—she becomes Chime’s most wanted.

Quen’s job was to pursue sinners, until the visions started. Haunted by foreboding images of his beloved city’s destruction, Quen hunts soul-sucking creatures made of aether who prey on its citizens—and Kayl is his number one target.

To ensure Chime’s future, Kayl and Quen must discover the truth of Kayl’s divine abilities before the gods take matters into their own hands.

For a city that bows to cruel gods, it’ll take godless heathens to save it.

The Thirteenth Hour is the first book in The Cruel Gods series—a gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. This is an adult book containing strong language and mature themes that some readers may find disturbing. For a full list of content warnings, visit Trudie Skies’s website.

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Mini Reviews: Novellas Edition

Hello, reader!

I’m back with some mini reviews today. As a big consumer of fantasy, I tend to read a lot of longer books. Fantasy writers have a lot to get into a story and, sometimes, that can lead to some chonky books. Lately, though, I’ve found myself really getting into shorter fiction. That’s why I figured it was time to do a mini review of some mini books, aka novellas!

I’ve been having a great time with the novellas I’ve read recently, but am so behind on actually reviewing them! That being said, let’s jump into this post, shall we?


Title: Remote Control

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor.com

Genre: Science Fiction

CW/TW: Child abuse, body horror, grief & loss depiction, death of a family member, gun violence, animal death

Rating: ★★★★

Links:
Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::
Goodreads

Nnedi Okorafor has been on my radar for quite some time, but this was my first experience reading her work. Now, I wish to read everything she has ever written!

In Remote Control, we follow the story of a young girl who has lost her name and been adopted by Death. After a tragic event, Sankofa becomes her new name and death follows wherever she goes. She spends her days wandering Ghana with her small fox companion, trying to find answers and an object that fell from the sky and changed her life.

This was such an incredible, quiet read. You would think a book about a girl that brings death with her would be more in-you-face, but this book is much more a character study that was strangely calm. Even when the character was surrounded by death and destruction. I absolutely loved the writing in this story and how it gripped me from beginning to end. I loved Fatima/Sankofa and following her around as she searches for answers to her suffering. Watching her character growth and her interactions with the world around her was a treat! And, even though I could have followed this story for chapters and chapters more, it still felt like a fully formed and finished book in this short amount of pages. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

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ARC Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Title: These Violent Delights

Author: Chloe Gong

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre: Fantasy

Content/Trigger Warnings: For a list of potential content and trigger warnings, check out this book’s page on BookTriggerWarnings.com

Rating: ★★★★★

Book Links:
Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::
Goodreads

One Sentence Synopsis

Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov are the heirs to two rival gangs in 1926 Shanghai who must work together, despite their difficult past, to save their city.

Favorite Quote

“Memories were beastly little creatures, after all – they rose with the faintest whiff of nourishment.”

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Five Star Reads of 2021

Hello, reader!

Seeming as 2022 is literally right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to reflect on my reading in 2021. Now, last year, I made a top ten list for my top reads of the year, but I found that left out a lot of books that I truly loved. So we’re doing it a little different in 2021! This year, I’m going to include all my five star reads and I’m not ranking them. I read a lot of fantastic books and I honestly don’t think I could pick a clear winner out of the bunch if I tried.

So here, in no particular order, are my favorite reads of 2021!


Adult Fantasy lead the pack

If you’ve been around the blog any amount of time, you know how much I love fantasy. It is my top genre and I don’t see that changing any time soon. So it probably comes as no surprise that most of my five star reads this year were in fantasy. I was a little surprised that adult edged out YA, though I probably shouldn’t be. I am 39 years old, after all 😂

  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse was probably my most recommended book this year. Anyone who asked for an adult SFF recommendation had me shoving this book in their faces 😂 It was such a stunning read, I couldn’t help myself! It was vivid and lush, with masterful world-building and characters that immediately captured my interest. I read this book and instantly added Rebecca Roanhorse to my auto-buy author list, it was just that good! Also, give me more epic fantasy that isn’t Europe-centric, pleeeease.
  • Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe might be another little cheat. I’ve already read the entire Webtoon series (at least what is out so far), so I knew I loved it. But there is something about reading the physical bind up of the first few chapters that made me fall in love all over again! The art is gorgeous, the story is incredible, and I can’t wait to have the other chapters in my greedy, little hands.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune was a book that I went into with a sprinkle of trepidation. It was just so hyped! Everyone was in love with this book. Well… almost everyone. There was some controversy about where the author got his inspiration for the orphanage featured in this story. As a non-indigenous reviewer, I highly suggest you seek out reviews from the affected community. All I can say is that this was one of the most heart-warming books I have ever read and it certainly made me want to read more of T.J. Klune’s work.
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo was another hyped book that I was a little scared to pick up. All the raving gave me high expectations! Thankfully, this book not only matched, but far exceeding them. For such a short book, it certainly packed a punch! I adored the writing, the story-telling, and the characters featured in this novella. I can’t wait to continue the series!
  • Stones of Light by Zack Argyle did what not a lot of sequels can do: it far surpassed the first book! It was such a fantastic sequel that leveled up everything I loved about Voice of War! The world-building was top notch. The writing was even better than the first. And the character growth was just *chef’s kiss* There was definitely no middle-book-syndrome here and I cannot wait to see how this series ends. You can bet that the last book is high on my 2022 TBR!
  • The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang was my first five star read of 2021. Talk about starting the year on an emotional rollercoaster! This book absolutely gutted me, which could explain why I’m so nervous to pick up the last book in this trilogy 😅 I certainly want to know how Rin’s story ends, but I know it’s gonna hurt so bad… Still, this was yet another sequel that was just as good, if not better than, the first book.
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