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Review: The Cursed Key

Synopis

A forgotten past, a dark mage, and an unyielding curse.

Another team beat free-spirited archaeologist Olivia Perez to the dig of a lifetime, and now she’s left with the choice to wait for scraps or brave a dangerous, dusty tomb in hopes of finding other priceless artifacts. Her reward? A mysterious key she has no idea is cursed. Soon, Olivia realizes she’s brought home more than just an ancient rarity.

Malevolent visions begin to plague her. Unnerved by what they reveal, she casts away the key…unknowingly placing it into the waiting hands of a dark mage bent on destruction. Only when a shifter agent from the Paranormal Intelligence and Tracking Organization arrives searching for the key does Olivia realize what a huge mistake she’s made. 

Forced to team up with the ill-tempered shifter, her journey to reclaim the cursed key leads down a twisting path of dark histories, dangerous magic, and deadly obstacles. But Olivia’s efforts to take back the ancient relic before the dark mage can destroy the lives of humans, shifters, witches, and fae alike are thwarted by her own dark past…and a price steeper than what she’s willing to pay.

Review

I got a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review from the authors in collaboration with Xpresso Tours!

This book was a fast-paced, hate-to love urban fantasy with hints of paranormal romance. If any of these tropes draw you in, I recommend picking this book up!

I liked that we got a unique twist to these tropes by adding a tomb-raider Lara Croft heroine who was kickass and carries a knife with her (which she has also named). Olivia and Kael have a very entertaining relationship with each other and need to team up to keep the mysterious key she has found out of the hands of bad people.

The writing-style was concise and fast, adding to the fast-paced plot. I personally would have preferred a little more descriptions and prose, but if you like a writing-style that is to the point, you will really enjoy this.

Overall this book was short, but contained enough details and exciting twists to make you want to finish it ASAP!

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Review: Serpent And Dove

Picture by me on Instagram

Synopsis

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all. 

Review

If you are keeping up with the bookish community on social media at all, you’d know the hype Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin has gotten. I’m always a bit hesitant when it comes to hyped books, as I’m sure many of you are too. When a book is made up to be perfect, fantastic and wonderful, you are almost bound to be disappointed. Right?

Well ladies and gents, believe me when I tell you this book did NOT disappoint me. In fact, I think it was fantastic. Let me tell you why.

Plot and Romance
First of all, I think you should go into this book excited for a broody, enemies to lovers romance. You will 100% get what you came for. I expected little else but the romance, and was actually pleasantly surprised by the worldbuilding and exciting plot. However, if you go into this book expecting an epic tale about witches and an intricate magic system, you will likely not enjoy this book as much. I do think Shelby Mahurin did a fantastic job of switching up the more character heavy, romance scenes with exciting fight scenes and some lovely plottwist.

The characters
I will be an Ansel stan for life. He is such a sweetheart and funny and overall perfection.
The friendship between Coco and Lou was also amazing. I am so glad we’re over this YA (although this book reads more like NA for sure) female-hating-female competition thing. Give me strong, loving female friendships! We support each other and want the best for our friends!

The character development was especially amazing for Reid. He underwent a huge personality change, but the build-up was in my opinion done in such a way that his actions and reactions felt completely natural.

What I liked, and what I didn’t

‘He really was too tall. Abnormally tall. Entirely too big for this small of a space. I wondered if he had some sort of disease. My eyes cut back to his chest. Probably.’

This book was absolutely hilarious. Lou is this tiny, pretty woman with a foul mouth while Reid is an almost 7 feet tall man who is continuously shocked by his little heathen. The contrast between the two is extremely funny and endearing. There is a lot of foul language (and some bawdy tavern songs as well) so you’d have to be able to deal with that, but I loved it.
The way the witches formed their own society and beliefs was extremely well done. They are strong in their femininity, and don’t shy away from entering into F/F relationships. If the covens are accepting new initiate witches, I’m totally available.

The only thing I did not entirely love was that the writing style was very modern. In a sort of medieval setting (again, the world building isn’t that extensive) it was jarring and took me out of the story sometimes. But it was also very easy to read and I flew through this book, considering I am also studying for my finals.

Overall, I rated this book 5 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend!

Review: Conspiracy of Ravens

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor a conspiracy of ravens book

Synopsis

Raven Crawford knows better than to venture into the seductive world of the dark fae or agree to any of their salacious promises. She plans to pay off her debts so she can get on with her life and stay far away from the denizens of the Underworld.

Unfortunately, her numbskull twin steals from the most tempting and lethal fae of them all. Now, Raven must help the Lord of Shadows get back what her idiot brother stole. Her only weapons? Just a little ingenuity and a whole lot of snark. It’s suicide for sure, but she’ll do anything to protect her twin.

Review

4 out of 5 stars!

Let me start off by saying that this book was so darn funny. I had to laugh out loud a couple of times, even though we read Raven’s inner monologue from a third person point of view (kudos to the author J.C. Mckenzie for pulling that off!)

Raven is a snarky young woman, working her ass off at a lousy waitress job while trying to pay off the debts her loser ex left her with. Even though this sounds pretty sad, Raven keeps on going with a positive attitude and gets through her day with the help of her loving family and a healthy dose of sarcasm. I absolutely loved the close-knit family scenes, especially the ones with her younger brother Mike were both heart-warming, funny and most of all very relatable.

When Raven’s twin brother Bear goes missing, her life gets a little more complicated. She gets involved with TDD – Tall, Dark and Handsome, who we later find out is the dark fae lord Cole. Raven herself has some Otherworldy powers herself too, which you will read more about later on in the story.

Raven fights tooth and nail to find out where her brother went, what he did, and most importantly how to get him back. I really admired her strength, without her becoming the typical (and slightly unbelievable) badass heroine who can physically take on big bad guys.

There were two things that kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and also the reason why I deducted one star from my final rating. The first one was that sometimes, the world building was a bit incoherent and vague. Of course, paranormal romance stories usually put the plot and the world-building a bit on the back burner, and I get that. I don’t blame the author for this in any way, it just sometimes jarred me while reading and took me out of the story. The second thing is that Raven said some things that rubbed me the wrong way, and almost came across as if the author kind of wanted to vent her opinion. There are two examples of this; one where she compared someone looking rough with looking like a cancer patient, which I frankly think is quite shocking and just not done. However, this is of course my personal opinion and did not take away from my enjoyment while reading the book. The second example is a weird run-in Raven has during working her job as a waitress with a woman who is a vegan. Raven absolutely hates vegans apparently and ridicules them, which also felt weird and uncomfortable to me (although I can see why some people would find this funny!)

To end on a positive note though, I would like to highlight the amazing details that were put into this book. Not only is the cover gorgeous, the chapter headings are really pretty too and every chapter starts of with a small quote. These always relate to what we are reading in the chapter, and are sometimes hilarious too. I really liked this extra effort put into the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this book and am very much looking forward to reading the sequel. I would like to thank the author, the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Song of the Crimson Flower

Synopsis

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

Review

First, a huge thank you and shout-out to Pinguin Random House International, the author Julie C. Dao and Netgalley for providing me with an E-Arc of the Song of the Crimson Flower!

Immediately when I started reading this book, a warm, fuzzy and familiar feeling fell over me. The same feeling I get when watching a Disney movie. This book read so much like a Disney movie with an Asian twist, in all the best ways possible.

We start off with our Herione, Lan. She’s a highborn and wealthy girl, and her parents are setting her up with a perfect match for their perfect little girl. But not everything goes as planned, and when our lowly born Hero Bao confesses his love to Lan she lashes out at him.

The story takes off from here. I am not going to say too much about the plot, because one of the weaker points of this book was definitely the predictability of the plot. The less you know, the better!

That being said, the predictability didn’t take away from the story, just like it wouldn’t in a Disney movie. I really enjoyed seeing the relationships between the characters blossom, and definitely had a few ‘I’m melting!’ moments.

Shyly, Bao moved one of his hands to her face and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear with infinite tenderness.

What I loved the most however, were both Dao’s writing style, which was descriptive without becoming too flowery, and the amazing worldbuilding. I felt like I was in a medieval Vietnamese setting, and the mentions in between of Serpent Gods and the traditional clothing the characters were wearing painted a vivid and immersive picture of this world.

This story was really empowering. We had our heroine, who broke away from her loving but overly protective parents, who had already set out a path for a sweet girl like her to follow. The story was still very realistic for the historical time we are in. The portrayal of humans and how nobody is perfect also very much contributed to this.

Lastly, I would like to highlight the amazing villains Dao creates. I don’t want to spoil anything here so I am being vague, but her villains are multilayered and just morally grey enough that I feel very conflicted about them.

This book has already been released at the time of writing, and I highly recommend you pick it up at your local bookstore!

Review: The Vine Witch

Synopsis:

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

Review:

First of all I’d like to thank Netgalley and the people over at Amazon Publishing for providing me with a copy of the Vine Witch in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 out of 5 stars! I loved the heck out of this book and I was so pleasantly surprised by it too. As far as I could see, the Vine Witch is Luanne G. Smith’s debut novel, which I wasn’t able to tell while reading it. Her writing style is captivating and has just the right amount of whimsy to it without taking away from the mysterious plot, which keeps you at the edge of your seat and wanting to continue to read.

It felt stronger than the bond of blood, held together by the terroir and magic of the work they did in the vineyard. They bowed their heads together, touching foreheads over the milk, as they often had when she was still a girl.

I loved the relationship between Grand-Mere and Elena in this book, it gave me the Charmed, sister-witches feeling. This book focused so much on the bond between women, and there were some hints of feminism too:

“I told him I’d rather be a happy spinster than his miserable wife and threw his ring back at him.” Grand-Mere bent her ear forward, as if she hadn’t heard correctly. “You broke off the engagement?”

And this little gem:

“He likes being superior and reminding me of how much I don’t know.” “So you’re saying he’s a man?”

And the last one (can you tell I loved the quotes in this book?):

He’d never been a great reader of women’s thoughts, but there was no mistaking the murder in this one’s eye.

But this book didn’t turn in anything too spiteful, there was a very cute romance going on and I was rooting for the two! My preference would have been for a slightly more slow burn romance though, since the feelings from ‘hate’ to love overturned quite quickly in my opinion.

To conclude however, I think many people will get something different they like out of this book. There is whimsical witchcraft, empowering sisterhood, a murder mystery, feelings of revenge and a budding romance all set against the gorgeous backdrop of the French vineyards.

Review: Sorcery of Thorns

Synopsis:

(Picture is mine, for more visit my instagram)

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

My review:

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!
I loved this book with all my heart. Margaret Rogerson has dedicated the book to ‘all the girls who found themselves in books’, and I could feel it when reading SoT. Also I didn’t see anyone mention it but this book was so funny! I laughed out loud A LOT and I didn’t dare take it out in public with me for that reason. Margaret Rogerson has a very funny and unique writing style and of course the characters were hilarious too.

Let me start with Nathaniel Thorn. Broody, dark haired sorcerer, convinced of his good looks and excruciatingly sarcastic and clever-mouthed? Sold. The way he interacted with the other characters (however minor) was very much my cup of tea:

‘ “I was warned I’d see some strange things in the countryside,” he said, “but I admit, I didn’t expect to find a feral librarian roaming the stacks.” ‘

And another gem:

(…) ‘ “Has he declared his intentions?” “I wish he would,” Elisabeth said. “He hardly makes sense half the time. Knowing his intentions would be helpful”
Nathaniel made a choking sound. “She doesn’t mean it that way,” he assured everyone, taking Elisabeth’s arm. “She’s a feral librarian, you see – raised by booklice, very tragic…” ‘

Honestly I could go on and quote Nathaniel for ages but you just have to read the book and experience him for yourself.

Apart from the banter between the sorcerer Nathaniel, the ‘feral librarian’ Elisabeth Scrivener and the demon Silas, this book has great world building (considering it’s a standalone!) and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. We encounter grimoires, who aren’t like ordinary books. They have their own personalities and powers, and depending on which class they are they might even be able to speak.

‘In a glass case nearby, a Class Four named Lord Fustian’s Florilegium cleared its throat self-importantly, trying to get her attention. It needed to be complimenten out loud at least once per day, or it would snap shut like a clam and refuse to open again for years.’

All of the minor characters are fleshed out and have their own personalities. I personally loved Katrien and would have liked to see more of her.

In the end, I’m not going to talk more in depth about this book because I think there are some things you need to discover on your own. The only thing I didn’t love about this book was the prologue. I think the writer easily could have made the book a little bit longer and not overrush the ending. This felt too much like a neat little wrap up.

But overall this book has become a new favorite of mine and I recommend it a 100%!

Review: Smoke and Water by Tai Le Grice

First of all a big thank you to Cranthorpe Millner publishers and the author for providing me with a gifted copy of this book to review.

I’m rating this book 3.5/5 stars.

Eike is our main character and has lost his family in a tragic fire that occurred while he was away at swim practice. As a result he struggles with a lot of survivors guilt and is being raised by his grandparents.

He goes to college where he meets Damon King, and immediately feels a spark of attraction for him. But due to some events in the past he doesn’t want to acknowledge this.
I think the love story is the best developed part of this book. You can feel the attraction between the two characters and I thought they were really sweet together. I wasn’t able to quite connect with the writing, I do think it may have been edited a little bit more. That said there were some very profound quotes throughout the book.

I liked the friendship between Eike and Spex, the way they completely accepted the other person for who they were. However I did feel like none of the characters except Eike and Damon were very well developed. Eike obviously had a big family before most of them died in the fire, yet we don’t know any of their names or what their characters were like. Spex is actually named Parker but it’s never explained why he’s going by ‘Spex’, what his hobbies are or who his parents were. The setting also felt more like a high school than college.

I think the LGBT+ representation was very well done here, and I thought it was very nice how the author brought on more diversity by talking about Eike’s Korean heritage. Some things felt very natural and accurate to me, like the mentioning of traditional Korean dishes or K-pop. At other times it felt a bit forced to me and sometimes not like real-life situations. For example, Eike has some scarring on his neck from when he tried to rescue his family from the fire and he’s covered this up with a huge dragon tattoo. His very traditional and strict Korean grandparents completely encouraged this, even though in many Asian cultures tattoos are a very big taboo.

Overall I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a cute yet angsty LGBT+ romance!

Review: the Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor the long way to a small angry planet
By Becky Chambers

Synopsis:

“When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered a job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful. But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.”

My review:

This book has quickly become one of my favorite reads of 2019. I cannot describe it other than familiar and human. Even though this story is about a wide variety of alien species, every single one of them was relatable and endearing in some way without it feeling forced or fabricated. I would love to be a part of the Wayfarer crew!

I know this book has been described as ‘soft SciFi’, and I think that is partially right. Even though it has a very decent plot and some action packed scenes, it is first and foremost a story about people, friendship and chosen families.

‘Before Rosemary could have any say in the matter, the woman stood up, removed her gloves and wrapped Rosemary in an enormous hug. “Welcome home.” She pulled back, wearing an infectious grin. “I’m Kizzy Shao. Mech tech.” ‘

The crew on the Wayfarer are incredibly diverse, not only in species but in personalities, size (we have a person with Dwarfism), sexuality (interspecies and polyarmous relationships) race and wealth. Despite their differences they are loving and welcoming and accepting of one another (well, almost all of them. Looking at you Corbin). There are some great redemption arcs and certain characters experience enormous growth.

Lastly I want to emphasize the vast universe Becky Chambers has created.

Complicated family structures. Virtually no concept of personal space. Physically affectionate. Promiscuous. She mentally slapped herself for that. It was a stereotype, one that every Human knew whether they wanted to or not, and it smacked of ethnocentrism. They don’t pair up like we do, she chided herself. It’s not the same thing.

Becky Chambers has gone beyond just creating certain alien species just for the sake of interesting filler and weird phenomena. Every species has their own unique culture and personality quirks, and humans are far from superior. In fact, humans are looked upon as one of the weaker species.

As a reader, I found myself constantly being surprised and challenging my core beliefs and outlook on the world. We encounter species who regard children as less important than adults, who are polyamorous, who start their lives as females to then evolve and end their live as a male. This is such a culturally rich and important book and one that really makes you think about your own cultural beliefs.

Although I’m sad the second installment won’t be covering the whole Wayfarer crew again, I am beyond stoked to read more of Becky Chambers work and cannot recommend this book enough.

Hey there!

Hello there and thank you so much for visiting my blog! I’m so glad you’re here. My name is Shanice Noelle, but I mostly go by Noella Reads online. I intend to use this blog to connect with other people and share my love of reading around the globe.

Let me start with a proper introduction. My birthday is the 29th of December 1996, so I am currently 22 years old. I am from the Netherlands and I live together with my boyfriend and our two cats. I am a law student and in my spare time I like to experiment with cooking up new food dishes and of course read books, review books, take pictures of books and talk about books.

Regarding this blog you can expect lots of book pictures (which I post on my instagram account @noellareads as well!) in depth book reviews, book recommendations and just general bookish updates like wrap ups, TBRs, and sneak peeks of my reading journal.

I hope you’ll enjoy my content and I’d be honored to have you along for the ride.

Love,

Noella Reads