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Book Review | Fetish : An Collection of Victorian Erotic Stories by Anonymous

Disclosure: Thank you to Entangled Publishing for sending me a complimentary copy. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. I hope you will consider purchasing a copy at one of the local bookstores listed below.

Published on: 25 October 2022
Published by: Entangled: Amara
Type: short stories, omnibus
Genre: Romance Anthology, Romantic Erotica, Victorian Erotica, Erotica, LGBT, Historical, Romance, Historical Romance, BDSM
Author: Anonymous
Book Length: 560 pages
Read: 18 December 2023
Shelved: 28 January 2023
Rating: 5/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Step into a world of secret appetites, carnal longing, and dark cravings with this erotic collection set in the Victorian era. From achingly tender to utterly taboo, these ten historical stories will stir and entice every desire…

A young wife lures men into erotic trysts—and spills all the tea to her husband at night.

An heiress rekindles her friendship with a schoolmate who coaches her husband in the fine art of fisting.

A burly builder can’t get enough of the feathery touch delivered by his level-headed bricklayer.

You’re invited to a feast of these and seven more tantalizing tales. Fetish will shatter expectations, defy every convention…and awaken the lust inside you.

<><><><><><><>

A collection of 10 steamy tales set in the Victorian era! After luring men into erotic trysts, one young wife tells her husband everything at night; an heiress rekindles her friendship with a schoolmate who coaches her spouse in bedroom affairs; and a builder is tempted by his bricklayer…


Review

Fetish is a fantastic collection of Victorian short stories about unique and not-much-discussed fetishes that range from tame – controversial – fascinating – complex. It consists of ten short stories that will entice, enchant and amaze the vastness of this topic. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fetish! I was already fascinated by the title and cover, but I got even more excited as I started reading the book. It was beyond my expectations and more! The writing is solid and will keep readers glued to the pages. I savored the stories, which is why it took me a bit of time to finish because I would have devoured this book in one sitting!

My favorites are The Point of No Return and Temptress with a Teapot. The former is due to the excruciatingly lovely slow-burn pace and relationship-building. At the same time, the latter is because of the respect and further revelations both partners show towards each other, even with their “unique set-up.”

Ten Titles are:

A Neighboring Hand
The Point of No Return
Horsing Around
How Do You Do Your Do?
How Stimulating
The Paddle, Pretty Please?
Make A Scene
Temptress with a Teapot
That Tickles
The Rubber Match

” I wasn’t meaning to be unkind, but I was honestly surprised that he’s never made a woman come like that before. I said, ‘Rainer makes me gush all the time.'”

Temptress with a Teapot

Book Review | Priory of the Orange Tree (Roots of Chaos 1) by Samantha Shannon

Disclosure: I may earn a commission on affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. I hope you will consider purchasing a copy at one of the local bookstores listed below.

Published on: 26 February 2019
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: standalone, duology
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, High Fantasy, LGBT, Dragons, Romance, Magic
Author: Samantha Shannon
Book Length: 849 pages
Read: 26 December 2022
Shelved: 17 January 2023
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.


The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction–but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.


Review

RATING BREAKDOWN:-
Character: ★★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Intrigue: ★★★★★
Logic: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
OVERALL: 4.9 ~ 5 stars ★★★★★

The Priory of the Orange Tree is a high fantasy book that retells the story of Saint George and the Dragon but with complex plot development and plot twists, dynamic MCs, and vivid depictions and imagery.

Top 5 Reasons to Read Priory of the Orange Tree

1.) Epic Fantasy at its finest!

I enjoyed the lush descriptions that helped visualize new and complex kingdoms. The world-building was fantastic – written with unique and vivid new lands, worlds, and characters. I enjoyed the maps provided, which gave me a better visual aid to the places and topography of the various kingdoms. 

2.) Interesting grey characters in multi-POV

It is impossible to fault the characters who firmly held on to their faith and “religion” after being “blind-sighted” by what happened. It was two sides of a coin that never met due to a plague and “edited narratives” that manipulated the situation to their advantage. It was sad to see as the reader reads along the POVs and starts piecing things together. 

I appreciate grey characters since they may not be the “heroes” in the end, but they develop into something to admire later. Case in point, this book’s Niclays redeemed himself in his revelation of self-worth and maybe because he knew that going down a destructive path would not yield ultimate happiness.   

3.) Different perspectives but with one goal – to win over an unbeatable (or so they seem) villain 

I love multi-POV! It gives a sense of being included in all parts of the story. Readers get a front-row seat in all the ins and outs of court affairs from all directions (East, West, South). Don’t get me wrong; I still had a notebook to write down who was who, where, what, and why. 

I appreciate the author’s skillful construction of each viewpoint with strategical flare, timed deception, and manipulation. In the end, no matter how impossible the situation got, it was refreshing to see the “next generation” try to resolve and heal their countries with a united front to take on a sole enemy to all – The Nameless One.

4.) LGBTQIA+ and Saffic representation

It was an honest book with raw emotions and on-page queer representation. Many, if not all, were present and actively participated in the book, even the backstory participant. Each character’s chemistry felt natural and lovely to have seen a few “intimate moments” from them – backstory, flashback, and current ones. Yet, the most unfortunate thing in the book was that these beautifully written relationships (most, if not all) were kept hidden/a secret, which led to many sad parts in the book.

5.) Complex plot twists from start to finish

The intrigue, deceit, and betrayals were all over the place! No character (primary or otherwise) was spared from death in the pursuit of Inys throne – even the lowly bed-chamber women!

I was on the edge of my seat each time, especially when Ead and Loth had to infiltrate the Palace to save Sabran. It was heart-stoppingly good. 

Overall, The Priory of the Orange Tree exudes GOT vibes and gives me the high fantasy I yearn for. There are many raw moments of joy and despair, which is what life is all about. There are frustrating moments that show the limitation of humanity but are juxtaposed with the boundlessness of hope sprinkled randomly at the right moment, which ultimately turns the story from a dire outcome to boundless possibilities.

It is impossible not to recall and compare the author to be in the same league as George R.R. Martin!

Trigger Warning: manipulation, deception, incest, misogyny / double standards  

About the Author

Author photo by Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Samantha Shannon is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author. She was born in West London in 1991 and started writing in abundance when she was twelve. She studied English Language and Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford, from 2010 to 2013, specializing in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Principles of Film Criticism. 

In 2013, at 21, she published The Bone Season, the internationally bestselling first installment in a seven-book series of fantasy novels. Its first sequel, The Mime Order, was published in 2015, and the next, The Song Rising, in 2017. The fourth installment, The Mask Falling, is her most recent work, published in 2021. Her first book outside the series, The Priory of the Orange Tree, was a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards 2020. Its prequel, A Day of Fallen Night, will hit shelves in February 2023. 

She is currently working on the fifth book in the Bone Season series.

Connect with Samantha
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Book Review | Resolve: A New Year’s Anthology for Choice by Liz Alden, Kathy L. Wheeler, Danika Bloom, Lainey Davis, Alexa Rivers, S.E. Rose, Marie Tuhart, Sara Whitney, Karen Grey, Tinia Montford, and Addie Woolridge

Disclosure: I received this complimentary copy from the author and/or publisher and voluntarily left an honest review. A positive review is not required.

Published on: January 3, 2023
Type: standalone, anthology
Genre: Romance, Anthology, Contemporary
Author(s): Liz Alden, Kathy L. Wheeler, Danika Bloom, Lainey Davis, Alexa Rivers, S.E. Rose, Marie Tuhart, Sara Whitney, Karen Grey, Tinia Montford, and Addie Woolridge
Book Length: 527 pages
Read: 22 December 2022
Shelved: 25 December 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Retailers: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google Play
Add to your Bookbub | Goodreads TBR!

Synopsis:

What’s your New Year’s resolution?

Eleven of today’s most entertaining contemporary romance authors have teamed up to support reproductive choice in the new year. This anthology features feel-good fiction that’s heartwarming, often hilarious, and hot enough to light your sparklers. So raise a cup of kindness to the days of auld lang syne, and settle in for a steamy read.

100% of the royalties from this collection will benefit the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Authors include Liz Alden, Danika Bloom, Lainey Davis, Karen Grey, Tinia Montford, Alexa Rivers, S.E. Rose, Marie Tuhart, Kathy L Wheeler, Sara Whitney, and Addie Woolridge.

Contents:

Beach Resolution by Liz Alden
The Billionaire’s Brouhaha by Danika Bloom
Champagne Punch by Lainey Davis
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes by Karen Grey
Be My Angel by Tinia Montford
Everything I Dreamed Of by Alexa Rivers
Lured by the Decoy by S.E. Rose
Flirting with Temptation by Marie Tuhart
Look Up and Dream by Kathy L Wheeler
Bold Vibers Only by Sara Whitney
Fool Me Once by Addie Woolridge

Book Review

Resolve is an anthology with a great mix of eleven short stories that were quite interesting and “eye-opening” because they tackled pro-choice, empowerment, spunk, and romance. 

There might be a few controversial situations that will bring in conversation, aside from remembering past characters in the author’s book series. I pleasantly enjoyed Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes by Karen Grey, who authored the Boston Classics series I followed. It was a great follow-up to the author’s Child of Mine series that I was fortunate to read and review. It was lovely to see the new character’s progression (from the child’s story) spanning years and culminating in a beautiful journey of attraction, commitment, love, and helping others.

Another one that brought more conversation between my hubs and me is Fool Me Once by Addie Woolridge, which brought back memories and discussion on a woman’s choice and options on contraction. This story impacted me as I think about the current situation in my country in Asia – withholding or limited access to these.

There were a few misses for me, BUT that’s just because I needed to get the whole story, and I had to come in trying to sort out the issues, or the story finished too early for my preference. Ultimately, there were more “hits” than “misses,” but more of the former, for sure!

I recommend this book to readers who love:

  1. Strong, sassy, witty female characters, balanced by “open-minded” and understanding partners.
  2. Revisiting past book characters from these authors.
  3. Empowering stories to bring conversations regarding women’s rights and “choices/options.”

Read if you like

Strong, witty, intellectual FMCs
Amazingly open and understanding MMCs
Empowering and understanding partners
Revisits past characters’ book series of these authors
Controversial topics to bring in conversations even after


Meet the Authors

I’ve spent the past five years traveling the world with my husband on our sailboat. I have so many stories to share of grand adventures, beautiful places, and the love that’s found along the way. 

While I’ve been happily married for over ten years, the stories from our friends of meeting each other and falling in love have inspired me. I hope to show through my stories that the world is both large and small, and that love can be found everywhere. 

We still live the vagabond life on our sailboat.  When I miss terra firma, I read in my hammock, slip into the water for a snorkel, or watch the sunset over a glass of wine.

Connect with Liz
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Kathy L Wheeler loves the NFL, the NBA, musical theater (don’t ask how her how many times she’s seen Phantom of the Opera (12); or Wicked (7), travel, (Europe, Grand Cayman, Mexico, All over the US), reading (practically a book a night), writing (25 published books and counting) and karaoke (well… what can I say). She assists other authors in critiquing, formatting, and creating covers for their publishing dreams.
She writes contemporary and historical stories where the heroines save themselves and the heroes who honor their courage with suspense and humor.
She is thriving in the Pacific Northwest with her musically talented, lawyer husband and her adorable dog Angel who lives up to her name (…mostly).

Connect with Kathy
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My books give the one-click romance reader sexy, chiseled heroes who will raise your heart rate so high you won’t need to waste time at the gym, and strong, quirky heroines who will have you wiping tears of laughter from your cleavage.
Although I was born, raised and live in Canada, I spell like an American, use British colloquialisms and swear in French.
Join my Bloom’n email list to get news about ARC opportunities, new releases, and other love&stuff.

Connect with Danika
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USA Today bestselling author Lainey Davis lives in Pittsburgh with 3 feral sons, 2 rescued rabbits, and 1 tired husband. She writes steamy, contemporary love stories with grouchy heroes, strong heroines, and plenty of fiascos. She’s excited to find out how much coffee is too much.

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Alexa Rivers writes about genuine characters living messy, imperfect lives and earning hard-won happily ever afters. Most of her books are set in small towns, and she lives in one of these herself. She shares a house with a neurotic dog and a husband who thinks he’s hilarious.

When she’s not writing, she enjoys traveling, baking, eating too much chocolate, cuddling fluffy animals, drinking excessive amounts of tea, and absorbing herself in fictional worlds.

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USA Today & International Bestselling romance author, S.E. Rose lives near Washington D.C. with her family.
When she’s not wrangling her cats or keeping up with her kids, she’s plotting her next story.
She loves all things wine, coffee, and cats.
In her non-existent free time, she enjoys traveling, going to concerts, binging on her favorite shows, and reading, especially if it’s a good mystery or comedy.

Connect with S.E. Rose
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Marie Tuhart lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her muses, Tommy and Trina her two rescue dogs. Marie loves to read and write, when she’s not writing, she spends time with family, traveling and enjoying life.

Marie Tuhart is a multi-published author of hot contemporary romance for readers fascinated by approachable alpha males in and out of the bedroom. Mare’s fun, safe and sexy stories offer a captivating romantic escape in the arms of likeable characters who know which buttons to push and which are off limits. Go on, embrace the temptation…

Connect with Marie
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Sara Whitney writes sexy, sunny contemporary romance that’s unforgettable and unputdownable. A multiple award-winning author, Sara worked as a print journalist and film critic before she earned her Ph.D. and landed in academia. She’s a good pinball player, a great baker, and an overly excitable freelance TV writer who probably has an opinion about your favorite show.

Sara lives in Illinois surrounded by books, cats, and half-empty coffee cups.

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Karen Grey (also known as Karen White and K.E. White) has had several essays published, in Salt Magazine and the Nevertheless We Persisted collections (one an Audies Finalist and the other a SOVAs finalist), and a short story in the collection Vintage Love Stories. Her first romance novel was a winner of the NJ Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book contest and Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest in the Modern History category and won second place in the GA Romance Writers’ Maggie Award. The first book in her 1980’s era romance series Boston Classics, What I’m Looking For releases June 23, 2020.

Connect with Karen
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Tinia (TUH-NIA) Montford is a Pisces who’s a sap for romance, especially when there’s (tons of) kissing. Loves eighties sitcoms and will consume anything with chocolate. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in English and Graphic Design.
She is a world traveler having climbed a volcano in Nicaragua, scaled Angkor Wat in the blistering sun, and roamed the Acropolis of Athens. Oh, she also dabbles in short stories occasionally.
If you can’t catch her writing, you can bet she’s overindulging on poke bowls, listening to the same four songs, or chilling with her adorbs doggie. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction.

Connect with Tinia
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Born and raised outside Seattle, Washington, Addie Woolridge is a classically trained opera singer with a degree in music from the University of Southern California, and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Indiana University. Woolridge’s well-developed characters are a result of her love for diverse people, cultures, and experiences.

Woolridge currently lives in Northern California. When she isn’t writing or singing, Woolridge can be found baking; training for her sixth race in the Seven Continents Marathon Challenge; or taking advantage of the region’s signature beverage, wine.

Connect with Addie
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Book Review | Dangerous Desire by Misha Blake

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.


Publisher ‏ : ‎ KB Worlds LLC (December 15, 2022)

Synopsis:

Former Navy SEAL Reece Cohen is a haunted man.

Twenty years and his parents’ deaths still torment him. The more justice he gets for others as an operator for D Corps, the less he feels he’ll get his own. His closure is almost forgotten. All until he finally catches a break. What he does not anticipate is that said lead is a breathtakingly feisty detective who not only kisses him without warning but also gives him the best night of his life.

Hadley Novak is no stranger to the battlefield.

Nor is she a stranger to loss. Former Army Ranger turned detective’s sense of justice, and compulsive thirst for digging up the truth frequently gets her into trouble. After her engagement fails, kissing the mysterious, brooding, and rugged man in the spur of the moment is not something she expects. Surely kissing a stranger should be inconsequential even if said stranger is hot as blazes and makes her body croon in more ways than she believes possible.

Their worlds collide, sparks ignite, and everything goes haywire.

What is supposed to be a sole night of passion shifts when Reece learns Hadley’s life is in danger. Forthwith, he decides he’ll do anything to keep her safe, although that includes keeping her away from the demons that will love to rope her into his hell.

Protecting Hadley means Reece must keep her close.

He risks losing his ever-loving mind as he gets tempted to screw it all for another taste.
She is off-limits because she’s been hurt before, and chancing her heart again is off the table.
Their attraction burns red-hot, and desire has never tasted sweeter. But it has never been more dangerous. Especially when a killer lurks in the shadows, ready and waiting for the darkness to settle.

Will Reece be able to keep Hadley safe, or is he damned to lose her?

Misha Blake’s Dangerous Desire is a hot, emotion-packed, suspense-charged, contemporary romance written in K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes Worlds project.

Book Review

I knew what I was getting myself by taking up Dangerous Desire. Granted that I am used to the suspense and mystery part of the author’s past books, I am still surprised at how this story engaged me, mystified (with the crime elements) my brain, and felt fresh again for me.

A private contract hire, Reece is caught in Hadley’s world as a killer and unknowingly pushes both MCs together. Reece’s past links Hadley’s present as they join forces (and bodies) to solve cryptic letters and hidden clues plaguing Sunnyville. 

Reece and Hadley’s character developments got ample page time, even with the expected insta-lust/insta-attraction theme. Although the steamy scenes in DD were steamy, they were tamer than the author’s past books with more raunchy scenes (All I love thoroughly). Both characters needed each other to solve the cold case that Reece was involved with many years ago while sorting through their internal struggles and trauma. Now, if something else develops after that, it’s all good, fun, and a welcomed gift! 

I enjoyed the mystery-solving, crime element of the story. There are a few technical items and protocols in investigating that were beyond my scope of knowledge, but the author has done ample research based on past books with similar requirements. I love the plot twists that kept popping up that either yield more clues or bodies, whichever suits them. Just when you think it’s over, there are more layered complexities on who is the real mastermind in all these crimes!

Dangerous Desire is an excellent addition to the KB Everyday Heroes World. It’s got the right vibes for readers of the series to start on, PLUS an added Misha’s signature stamped all over it. In true Misha Blake style, we can expect a lot of angst, passion, and steamy intimacy moments with a whole truckload of suspense – impeccably executed with balance and well-timed twists to keep readers glued on the book until the end.

Recommended to readers who like:

Military/ “unsung heroes” Romance
Contemporary Romance
Suspense, Crime, and Drama
Problem-solving Mysteries
Angst, Grey Main Characters
KB Series Readers


Book Details:

Published on: December 15, 2022
Published by: KB Worlds LLC
Type: standalone
Author: Misha Blake
Book Length: 372 pages
Read: 19 December 2022
Shelved: 21 December 2022
Rating: 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

RATING BREAKDOWN:-
Character: ★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Intrigue: ★★★★★
Logic: ★★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
OVERALL: 4.6 ~ 5 stars ★★★★★

Get It Here:

Amazon US | UK | AU | CA
Add to your Goodreads TBR


Reece Cohen was the kind of man who kissed a woman on the forehead and made her feel all kinds of emotions with that mere peck.

– Dangerous Desire by Misha Blake

Meet the Author

Misha Blake is a new young author who lives her life in rainy England.
She has only just begun her long-postponed and long-overdue journey into the world of writing, but she is no stranger to romance herself.
Misha finds her inspiration for her books in everything that surrounds her, her family, friends, and even the strangers on the streets.
Her genre is a steamy romance with a pinch of suspense and drama. It surrounds around strong and sexy heroes who dare to fall in love and love the heroines who are just as incredibly stubborn as they are alluring.

Connect with Misha
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Review | Ink Raven (Ink Blossom #2) by Lynn Robin

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 22 November 2022
Type: series, cliffhanger
Genre:
paranormal romance, suspense/drama romance,
Tropes: YA Paranormal Romance
Author:
Lynn Robin
Paperback
: 245 pages
Read: 12 November 2022
Shelved: 14 November 2022

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it here:
Amazon USA | UK
Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Add the book to your TBR: Goodreads | Bookbub


Synopsis

After saving Gwyn’s life and fighting off the feral season of his land, Rafe flees to the Land of Summer with the girl who has captured the one part of his heart he has managed to keep.

Yet as soon as he finds himself in the other land, Rafe realizes that what he has believed for a century isn’t true—and that the truth of the seasonal gods is far more complicated than he ever thought possible, a web of lies and betrayal.

As revelations threaten to shatter Gwyn’s dream of finding the Land of Spring, she has to choose once more whether she’ll help her beautiful, soft-spoken, fragile yet powerful Autumn god in unraveling the secrets of the seasons, the risk of losing her heart to him more real than ever or to protect herself and leave his side.

But Autumn is watching both Rafe and Gwyn—the god they turned into a devil and the girl who freed him from his prison—and it soon seems that making their own choices is a freedom neither can afford.

The Ink Raven will have to rise once more.
And the mortal girl he loves is the only one who can help him fly as high as the world needs him to.

My review of Ink Blossom, Book 1, of the series can be found here.


Review

RATING BREAKDOWN:-
Character: ★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Intrigue: ★★★★
Logic: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★
OVERALL: 4 stars ★★★★

CW: blood, gore, death

POV: multi-character POV (Gwyn, Rafe, etc.)

What to expect in Ink Raven:-

Surprise revelations
New characters that are as intriguing as the secrets that come
Slow-burn attraction and chemistry
Growing magical capabilities
Young love at its finest
Cliff-hanging suspense!

Ink Raven picks up where Book 1 left off. This time, Rafe and Gwyn escaped Autumn (barely) and into the land of Summer to free the other seasons and send Gyw to her “rightful season.” Little did they know that what they knew and thought of the “outside” were all lies! The startling revelations caused more dire predicaments, unexpected allies, and enemies. Who can Rafe and Gwyn trust as they try to help the other seasons’ gods? 

The world-building is still an enjoyable and unique storyline, as in Book 1. The book introduces many new characters but also explores the past and motivations of previous characters. I like the suspense jumping off the pages, and I was very invested in Gwyn’s goal to reach Spring. When more bad news came about, and Rafe had to see AND tell Gwyn all about it, my heart broke both times. There will be betrayals between friends/siblings/lovers will happen that will crush but where the author takes readers, in the end, is a hopeful one. There is still tension and angst between Rafe and Gwyn, but the plot takes center stage in this book – as they face the impossible.

Although there were few questions answered in Ink Raven – new powers and the “real deal on the seasons,” there are still more questions that will leave readers reeling for the next book. There are more mysteries left to unravel and discover. I feel that we are still not close to the end, and instead, we are just starting Gwyn and the rest of the character’s journeys to save the “seasons.” I am still hooked but still reeling from the new uncertainty lingering for both MCs.

I highly recommend this book to readers who love an ongoing saga, quest/journey fans, and angst, slow-burn YA paranormal romance.

Some people don’t like different, Gwyn… It scares them. But those who accept you as you are, those are the ones who are worthy enough to be part of your life. Don’t ever forget that.

Ink Raven by Lynn Robin

About the Author

Lynn Robin (1992) is the author of Paranormal Romance novels.
Born and raised in the historical city of Leiden in the Netherlands, she has felt the urge to write stories ever since she was little— preferably ones with ghosts and other spooky things (probably because her parents let her watch Stephen King film adaptions when she was nine).
Next, she likes to add a healthy dose of romance to her books; star-crossed lovers and forbidden romances, preferably about monsters hiding in the bodies of young men and girls blessed with angelic powers—or at least humans touched by magical abilities.
She made her debut in 2017 with her Dutch series entitled the Schimmenwereld Serie (the Phantom World series), containing six books about ghosts, angels, demons, music, dance, art, and—of course—love. She won the Best Book of 2018 award with the fourth installment, Schimmendroom (Phantom Dream), chosen by the jury of The Dutch Indie Awards.
In 2020 she debuted internationally in English with the highly romantic Kissing Monsters series, which concluded with 8 volumes in 2021. Her latest release is The Sea of Her, a still ongoing paranormal romance series in a tropical setting about the Weeper of Pearls, a Wild Stranger from the Sea, and a long-lost King of the Ocean.
Besides being passionate about writing, she’s also a rather dedicated running/fitness/yoga/martial arts enthusiast and likes to spend time with her family, play video games, or freak herself out watching documentaries about haunted houses (for research, she claims).

Connect with Lynn
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Release Blitz | Pasko Na, My Love, A Holiday Romance Anthology by Elle Cruz, Maan Gabriel, Mia Hopkins, Maida Malby, Tif Marcelo, and Sarah Smith

Publication date ‏ : ‎ December 6, 2022
Publisher ‏ : ‎ EOT Publications
Genre:  Romance, Asian & BIPOC, Holiday Romance
Type: Collection Anthologies, standalones

Get it here:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Bookbub
Add it to your TBR at Goodreads

Visit the official webpage for more information – Pasko Na, My Love – official site.

Synopsis

Family, heart, and a Merry Christmas Happily Ever After.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all ‘round Hacienda Luz bustled in celebration of Natividad Luz Moore’s 100th birthday.

A Filipino American woman of courage, strength, and heart, Lola Naty has touched the lives of many. Celebrities and politicians make merry, fine dresses and barong Tagalogs shimmer, and food and drink flow freely. And it’s all to honor family, tradition, and the very essence of that thing called love.

While Filipino ballads fill the chilly Northern California air, hearts throb and passions ignite as six remarkable couples find love in all the right—or wrong—places.

From acclaimed and bestselling Filipino American authors—Elle Cruz, Maan Gabriel, Maida Malby, Mia Hopkins, Sarah Smith, and Tif Marcelo—comes Pasko Na, My Love, a holiday romance collection that is sure to warm your heart and uplift your Christmas spirit.

  • Volcanic Love by Elle Cruz
  •  My Only Love by Maan Gabriel
  • So It’s You by Maida Malby
  •  Illicit by Mia Hopkins
  • Last Minute by Sarah Smith
  • The Deal by Tif Marcelo

Blurbs

Volcanic Love by Elle Cruz

Sophie is a thirty-year-old with a wildly successful sex podcast. She has secretly been in love with Travis, her older brother’s best friend, for years. A mistake from the past tears them apart. Sparks fly when they see each other five years later during her grandmother’s one-hundredth birthday celebration. Sophie will have to put aside her insecurities to win back Travis’s heart so she can finally have the happily ever after she’s always dreamed of.

My Only Love by Maan Gabriel

He’s on his way to the White House. She’s fighting for women’s rights on the streets of DC.

Ten years ago, Drew and Angelica broke off their engagement while in law school. They both attribute their failed relationship to young love and ambition. But when Drew begs Angelica to attend his grandmother’s 100th birthday and pretend for one week that they are back together, sparks fly between them. Is it pretend when the feelings from the past never truly went away?

The thing is, Angelica doesn’t want to be Senator Hizon’s number one. Selfish as it may seem, she wants to be his only one – his only love.

So It’s You by Maida Malby

Vida and her maternal grandmother, Naty Moore, share a special bond—the same birthday on Christmas Eve, fifty years apart. This year, Lola Naty will celebrate her 100th birthday, and Vida plans to do everything to make sure her grand party goes off without a hitch. Even if that includes hiding the identity of the man she’s dating.

Rafa Balmaseda fell for Vida long before he became her grandmother’s physician. Ten years younger than her, he chafes at being kept a secret. When he pushes for a deeper commitment, will Vida continue to deny his role in her life? Or will she finally admit that they belong together?

Illicit by Mia Hopkins

Event planner Eden Rosales and Catholic priest Nick Salgado reunite at Hacienda Luz and settle a score fourteen years in the making.

Last Minute by Sarah Smith

Twenty-eight-year-old Ruby is in charge of catering the 100th birthday party of her grandmother. As the baby of her family, Ruby has grown up in the shadow of her older, more successful cousins, so she’s determined for her catered dinner to go off without a hitch. But when her head chef calls out with food poisoning the day of the party and sends chef Mason Waller as her replacement, Ruby is pissed. She’s loathed Mason ever since he screwed her over in culinary school five years ago. There’s still plenty of fire between these two … in more ways than one.

The Deal by Tif Marcelo

Prodigal cousin Oliver Moore returns to Hacienda Luz to attend Lola Naty’s hundredth-year birthday party only to find out that he’s not on the guest list from divorcée event planner Norah Sha. In catching him as he tries to break in, she feels sorry for him and makes a deal to sneak him in, both discovering Christmas can still bring forgiveness and new love.


About the Authors

Elle Cruz is a writer of steamy contemporary romance. When Elle was a kid, she’d get in trouble on purpose to be sent to her room so she could read all day long. She thanks her lucky stars that her parents never thought to take books away from her when she was grounded. In a way, it was mom and dad’s fault for unintentionally cultivating a voracious reader and writer.​
After earning her English degree from UC Irvine, Elle eventually went back to school to become a nurse. Apparently, she couldn’t get enough of learning because she went to grad school to earn her doctorate degree.
Elle is the daughter of immigrants. She is fiercely proud of her background as a second-generation Filipino-American. She is dedicated to carving out a permanent place for POC in mainstream publishing by contributing her voice to the growing list of diverse authors.
Elle lives in Southern California with her supportive husband and two wonderful kids. When she’s not writing, she likes to keep her body guessing with her two obsessions: cookies and working out.

Connect with Elle
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Mia Hopkins writes lush romances starring fun, sexy characters who love to get down and dirty. Her award-winning books have been featured in many publications, including The Washington Post, USA Today, and Entertainment Weekly. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Connect with Mia
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Maan Gabriel is a mom, wife, dreamer, writer, and advocate for women’s stories in literature. She earned her BA in communications from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila and her MPS in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. She has lived in Manila, Brussels, Dakar, and Mexico City. During the day, she works in strategic communications. Gabriel and her husband and son currently call suburban Washington, DC home. After Perfect is her first novel. 

Connect with Maan
Website | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon


Filipino-American author Maida Malby cooks up foodie, multicultural, and contemporary destination romance stories filled with heat, sizzle, spice, and a whole lotta love.
She is a member of select writing groups and romance book clubs. Her To-Be-Read Mountain and book reviews are featured here on her blog Carpe Diem Chronicles. Readers can also find her on Lone Star Literary Life via her regular Texas Reads Roundup Romance column.
When not writing, reading, or reviewing books, Maida discusses current affairs with her husband, records her son’s Travels and Eats videos, cooks the dishes she features in her stories, procrastibakes more often than she should, and watches golf and food shows on TV.

Connect with Maida
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Tif Marcelo is a veteran US Army nurse and holds a BS in Nursing and a Master’s in public administration. She believes and writes about the strength of families, the endurance of friendship, heartfelt romances, and is inspired daily by her own military hero husband and four children. She hosts The Stories to Love Podcast, and is the USA Today bestselling author of In a Book Club Far AwayOnce Upon a SunsetThe Key to Happily Ever After, and the Journey to the Heart series.

Connect with Tif:- 
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Sarah Smith is a copywriter-turned-author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. Her love of romance began when she was eight, and she discovered her auntie’s stash of romance novels. She’s been hooked ever since. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate, and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and adorable cat, Salem. She is the author of Faker, If You Never Come Back, Simmer Down, and On Location. She is also one half of the romance writing duo Sarah Skye.

Connect with Sarah
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** GIVEAWAY ALERT **

In celebration of the release of Pasko Na, My Love, a giveaway is being run!
A $100 (one hundred dollar) Amazon gift card is up for grabs!
This Blitz-wide giveaway is open internationally. The giveaway ends on December 9th.

Join now ➟➟➟ Head on to Rafflecopter here.

Good luck!


Review | Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Disclosure: A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. I hope you will consider purchasing a copy at one of the local bookstores listed below.

Published on: 05 April 2022
Published by: Doubleday
Type: standalone
Genre: Woman’s fiction, Literary fiction, Mothers and Children fiction, Historical fiction
Author: Bonnie Garmus
Book Length: 400 pages
Read: 24 October 2022
Shelved: 28 October 2022
Rating: 4.6 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s, and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize-nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

But, like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.


Review

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault and rape, misogyny, sexism, suicide, homophobia, cult, death, domestic violence, imprisonment of a parent, death of a pet

RATING BREAKDOWN:-
Character: ★★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Intrigue: ★★★★★
Logic: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
OVERALL: 4.6 ~ 5 stars ★★★★★

Pros:

1. Third-person POV was the perfect approach for this book. It drew me in through a voyeuristic eye of the many other characters that shaped Elizabeth’s and Calvin’s lives – past, present, and future. Each episode brings a small snippet of what she is, how she sees herself, and what she wants.

2. Female characters with solid personalities wanting it all – a family AND a successful career, but also seeing the tradeoffs of having one successful over the other. I enjoy seeing STEM characters fail and succeed in whatever way they can, and having Elizabeth Zoot as its role model is realistic.

3. I love the many events happening to Elizabeth that are relatable to her position. The struggles and “falls” made Elizabeth human! It made her strive harder to be “validated,” and “recognized” was always at the forefront of her mind. The story spans from her childhood up to motherhood and beyond. 

4. Family and career are tackled with respect and balance. Elizabeth, who wants to be a successful scientist, is thrown into so many humanly personal emotions/nurturing situations with her partner, Calvin Evans, to her neighbor and then to her daughter. Elizabeth pulls in the seriousness and fun at the right moments in the book. Her unconventional approach to life and parenthood makes it impossible not to love and envy her sass all at once!

5. The ending was exciting and gives me hope that although there are many scammers in the world (even in the 1960s), there are still people who hold on to lost family members and help out as much as possible. The concept of family and reuniting them resonates deeply, giving connections and bonds a whole new meaning!  


Cons:

1. I would have appreciated a Trigger Warning section at the beginning of the book. It hit me at some point with the deluge of unfortunate and sometimes traumatic events. I am glad that the characters who had these things happen were much stronger psychologically and emotionally.

2. It may start slow with technical details at first, but the “narrator retelling feels” of the book made me forget about it and reminded me of the 1950/60s tv show feel. Overall, I did get into it a lot more than I realized.


In summary, Lessons in Chemistry is a beautiful, poignant read! 
Many secrets and revelations shaped each character’s resilience and bravery, not only Elizabeth, which made it an uplifting read. This book depicts the power of self-reliance, determination, and persistence in one’s success in life, no matter how unfair life sometimes is. It is an excellent reminder of the power one holds to succeed. I highly recommend this book to adults who need inspiration and motivation, especially with the many empowering quotes that can apply to all.

What to expect:-

– emotionally powerful and empowering read through a third-person’s POV
– enlightening past; raw, brutally honest
– to remember to avoid the pitfalls of the past
– eye-opener on the limitations people place on women without the latter realizing
– smartly written with humor
– science, evidence-based
– poignantly beautiful
– sharing the disparities in the past that move FMC to push the boundaries to have a brighter future for women
– life lessons in love, family, life, work, and career
– Cycle of Life: life, love, death, family, and science


Family is far more than biology.


Fearlessness in the kitchen translates to fearlessness in life.


Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.


Matter can neither be created or destroyed, but it can be rearranged. In other words, don’t sit next to Tommy Dixon.


Chemistry is inseparable from life – by its very definition, chemistry is life. But like your pie, life requires a strong base. In your home, you are that base. It is an enormous responsibility, the most undervalued job in the world that, nonetheless, holds everything together.


Chemistry is change and change is the core of your belief system. Which is good because that’s what we need more of – people who refuse to accept the status quo, who aren’t afraid to take on the unacceptable.


Courage is the root of change — and change is what we’re chemically designed to do.



No more holding yourself back. No more subscribing to others’ opinions of what you can and cannot achieve. And no more allowing anyone to pigeonhold you into useless categories of sex, race, economic status, and religion. Do not allow your talents to lie dormant, ladies. Design your own future. When you go home today, ask yourself what you will change. And then get started.


About the Author

Bonnie Garmus is a copywriter and creative director who has worked widely in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She’s an open-water swimmer, a rower, and a mother to two pretty amazing daughters. Born in California and most recently from Seattle, she currently lives in London with her husband and her dog, 99.

Connect with Bonnie
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Review | Wanting You Always (The Always Series #1) by Lizzie Morton

Disclosure: I received this complimentary copy from the author and/or publisher and voluntarily left an honest review. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 01 December 2022
Type: series, standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Lizzie Morton
Book Length: 420 pages
Read: 26 September 2022
Shelved: 30 September 2022
Rating: 4/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Retailers:
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Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Universal Link

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Synopsis

Sam Riley has been one of my best friends for as long as I can remember, it’s the wanting him part that is new.

With my personal life falling apart and Sam’s self-doubts putting his music career on the line, we do what we’ve always done best … we lean on each other.
Desperately trying to hold everything together, Sam manages to brighten the darkest of days.
In the middle of the storm, he’s my rainbow.
My person.
My one.
My constant.
Until we find ourselves tiptoeing the line of something more.
Deciding between what’s right and fighting for what we want feels impossible when it comes down to one thing …

Is loving your best friend worth the risk of losing them?

**Wanting You Always is Book 1 in a series of interconnected standalones which act as spin-offs to The Always Trilogy. Each book is a complete story and contains a HEA.**


Review

RATING BREAKDOWN:-
Character: ★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Intrigue: ★★★★
Logic: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
OVERALL: 4.14 ~ 4 stars ★★★★

TW: impostor syndrome, abuse, traumas, abandonment

POV: dual-first person, Sam and Sophie Parker


Wanting You Always extrapolates human behavior and its reaction to success. 

Sophie Parker is kind and caring. She comes from two successful musical legends, has a fantastic job with wonderful coworkers, and, to top that off, is a gifted singer. One would think that she has it all! But even surrounded with love and support, Sophie has much self-doubt that paralyzes and debilitates her from happiness. I am glad Sam comes through for her in the end, even if both Sophie and Sam picked “outstanding partners” at the beginning chapters. Both their partners are “scums of the universe” after what they did – no spoilers from me.

Sam may have had some issues with his “worthiness” to be part of a successful band, but he somehow worked it out better than what Sophie had to go through. Something happens in the book that throws Sophie from her controlled environment of self-doubt and denial to help someone dear to her unexpectedly. She had to face her issues head-on and fast to help others who urgently needed her. The solution was well-written and well-thought-out in the end, wherein I couldn’t have thought of a better ending than what the author did.

Overall, Wanting You Always is a great read. It talks about finding one’s worth and purpose in an industry that can be very unforgiving. It plays upon human insecurities and rears its ugliness unless one has the love and support of people around them. Sophie did in this book, and a lovely HEA does come out of it.


About the Author

Author Lizzie Morton is an author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in the U.K with her partner and three children.
Previously, she worked as a Personal Trainer and Back Pain Specialist and trained as a Chef at Leeds City College.
Her first novel was initially just a note on her phone but became a full manuscript – released in August 2020.
Her favorite things include running, sniffling, and changing nappies when she isn’t reading or writing.

Connect with Lizzie:
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Email | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon


Review | One Dark Window (The Shepherd King 1) by Rachel Gillig

Disclosure: This is a voluntary and honest review. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. I hope you will consider purchasing a copy at one of the local bookstores listed below.

Published on: 27 September 2022
Published by: Orbit
Type: series
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy
Author: Rachel Gillig
Book Length: 432 pages
Read: 22 October 2022
Shelved: 24 October 2022
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.

But nothing comes for free, especially magic.

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.

Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.


Review

RATING BREAKDOWN:-
Character: ★★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Intrigue: ★★★★★
Logic: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
OVERALL: 4.7 ~ 5 stars ★★★★★

Top 5 things I enjoyed reading One Dark Window:-

1.) Chapter quotes from The Old Book of Alders give an insight into the chapter’s content and are a nice touch. These poems were simple yet packed a load of information and warnings. I enjoyed the chapter more and got a tiny sneak peek of what happens.

2.) The slow-burn romance between Elspeth and Ravyn kept me glued to the pages. Thank goodness it wasn’t long before they “succumbed” to each other. The angsts were perfect, and the steam would make one’s creative mind wild in implied thoughts. I was engrossed and invested in Elspeth and Ravyn – their connection tugged my heartstrings.

3.) It was a visual and sensory trip into the world of Blunder and the noble families relating to the trees and Nature. There is a sense of conjuring a sense of place and atmosphere that readers will feel – the mist and the salt. World-building descriptors were “spot-on” and easy to visualize. 

4.) The plot twists will make one’s head spin, and readers will still not see how things turned out until it is too late! There is always a cost to magic, and Elspeth pays for it all at the end of this book. Ironically, how the book described some characters as “changed due to the cards” surprised me that I thought they would betray everyone, YET they didn’t and even helped Elspeth to the best of their abilities. I love the many thrills and chills of suspense at each turn!

5.) The cliffhanger broke me! I knew there was a Book 2, but I did not expect all the warnings given would end where it would be. I was left stumped and at a loss. One good thing is the last-minute insight provided in the epilogue that somewhat calmed me. Ravyn will somehow save Elspeth and free Blunder of the mist – he and “his crew” has to!

Overall, I enjoyed One Dark Window for the thrilling suspense of a slowly endangered community, the characters’ intricate personalities, world-building stimuli, and the mysteries of card magic!


PROs:

– morally grey yet complex characters
– colorful world-building
– the concept of card magic – extensions and limitations
– intriguing family complications, cut-throat politics, and unanticipated plot twists
– steamy, slow-burn, angsty romance 

Cons: 

– cliffhanger ending, BUT the author concluded all the things “at stake” with the families’ politics

What to expect:-

* interesting concept of cards and magic
* power-hungry families
* intrigue, deceit, and manipulation
* slow-burn romance


Trigger Warnings: (from Rachel Gillig’s website)
  • Scenes of terror
  • General violence/gore
  • Child in peril
  • Blood
  • Mention of self-harm for magic
  • Moderate sexual content
  • Mention of parental neglect
  • Alcohol consumption

About the Author

Rachel Gillig was born and raised on the California coast. She is a writer with a B.A. in Literary Theory and Criticism from UC Davis. If she is not ensconced in blankets dreaming up her next novel, Rachel is in her garden or walking with her husband, son, and their poodle, Wally.

Connect with Rachel
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Review | The Empress of Time (Keeper of the Night 2) by Kylie Lee Baker

Disclosure: A positive review is not required. I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. I hope you will consider purchasing a copy at one of the local bookstores listed below.

Published on: Inkyard Press
Published by: 04 October 2022
Type: duology
Genre: Teen & Young Adult Myths & Legends, Diversity & Multicultural Fiction, Dark Fantasy
Tropes: Fantasy and Supernatural buffs
Author: Kylie Lee Baker
Book Length: 416 pages
Read: 10 October 2022
Shelved: 12 October 2022
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

In this riveting sequel to The Keeper of Night, a half-Reaper, half-Shinigami soul collector must defend her title as Japan’s Death Goddess from those who would see her—and all of Japan—destroyed.

Death is her dynasty.

Ren Scarborough is no longer the girl who was chased out of England—she is the Goddess of Death ruling Japan’s underworld. But Reapers have recently been spotted in Japan, and it’s only a matter of time before Ivy, now Britain’s Death Goddess, comes to claim her revenge.

Ren’s last hope is to appeal to the god of storms and seas, who can turn the tides to send Ivy’s ship away from Japan’s shores. But he’ll only help Ren if she finds a sword lost thousands of years ago—an impossible demand.

Together with the moon god Tsukuyomi, Ren ventures across the country in a race against time. As her journey thrusts her in the middle of scheming gods and dangerous Yokai demons, Ren will have to learn who she can truly trust—and the fate of Japan hangs in the balance.

Book 1 Review can be found here.


Review

Note: I would highly suggest readers start with Book 1 – The Keeper of the Night, before starting this book to appreciate the events and character personalities better. 

RATING BREAKDOWN:-
Character: ★★★★
Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Intrigue: ★★★★★
Logic: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
OVERALL: 4.7 ~ 5 stars ★★★★★

POV: first-person – limited (Ren Scarborough)

Note: I would highly suggest readers start with Book 1 – The Keeper of the Night, before starting this book to appreciate the events and character personalities better. Jumping into Book 2 will spoil the many internal struggles Ren faced in Book 1 that evolved her from a shunned Reaper to a formidable goddess of the Underworld.

The pace is slower than in Book 1, but I believe it is the author’s technique to help create better world-building, character growth, and plot climax. Described in detail, each scene/city visited by Ren and her “crew” transports readers to being there – walking and trekking with Ren. I felt it all – the hums of mosquitoes, hollering street vendors, the squish of an organ, the metallic taste of blood, the smell of ash, etc. 

The plot is intricate, and the twists, in the end, were so good, especially from one of the supporting characters! There was no end to the twists and turns as the book progressed. There were many underlying meanings to the events happening all around them that seemed to have slipped in importance from me until revelations started – how things were “magically manipulated” to either Ren’s advantage or disadvantage, depending on how one sees things. With the book only from Ren’s POV, many background events formed that made things more complex than how Ren (and the reader) thought things were – but effectively mysterious.

The book focuses a lot on family, forgiveness, and healing

A stellar cast of characters that readers will invest in them emotionally and psychologically.

I loved Ren’s development from Books 1 to 2. She now knows her enough capabilities as a goddess that was amazing and supposed to be liberating, but because of her past, she still feels shackled. She tries to fit her “new role” into a mold. But these molds are nothing compared to Ren, who is unique with her dual heritage. I appreciate the progression of Ren failing as a goddess, a sister, a wife/widow, and a Reaper, especially when she did not expect to be where she was. As the story progresses, she begins to realize and throw the “ideal goddess standard” and pushes herself to discover and empower herself from within. I cheered for Ren the moment Ren morphed from second-guessing every move/decision made to a brave, strong, and selfless inspiration to everyone. Ren is an excellent grey female protagonist. She is not one-dimensional and serves a higher purpose with deep motivation for what she does – to protect her brother – constantly echoed in each action/reaction she shows. Ren found strength with her “found family” and reverted to them when needed. She becomes resilient and soft during appropriate times.

The ending was beautifully done and unraveled, making readers like me sigh with relief!! I love it!!! The revelation after revelation that resolves the problem came in waves that felt rhythmic and flowed well. I liked that it didn’t feel like being bombarded with information all at the same time.

I appreciated a big twist from a trusted source at the end because I had too much faith in that character. (No turning a new leaf for this character – cannot change a leopard’s spots.) Thank goodness Ren was wise enough NOT to fall for it, but I did and was flabbergasted when everything unfolded in the end.

Overall, I absolutely and positively enjoyed The Empress of Time! It was a deeply satisfying read with excellent world-building and intriguing characters. The book was thoughtful, well-written, and perfectly wrapped on a bow to conclude the duology. I love this story’s transformative effect on love, family, and internal reflection.

Given the duology as a whole, I enjoyed Books 1 and 2 equally, which surprised me since, at the start, I was leaning toward Book 1. 


What to expect from The Empress of Time:

fantasy and magic
ghost, ghoul, and monster
Asian / Japanese reps
strong female reps – hero, and villain (yes, both are women)


About the Author

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her work is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, & Irish) as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a BA in creative writing and Spanish from Emory University and is pursuing a master of library and information science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she plays the cello, watches horror movies, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

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