The Essence of Stone by Haley Rylander is a sweeping, epic fantasy with intricate world-building and political intrigue. The plot essentially follows a city of elves as they try find the source of the strange, destructive earthquakes attacking their city and their source of Vierstone, the magical foundation of their society and their race. Simultaneously, they must navigate an alliance with the neighboring human kingdom, which promises them another source of Vierstone in exchange for their support in battle.
The story spans a wide cast of elven characters and dives deep into the politics and history of Vierstone, their world, and their people. The characters are likable and the writing was detailed and flowed with a rich, fantastical feel. However, the romantic elements were light for me, and the pacing for this epic felt a bit on the slow side. Of course, my general preferences lean toward a hearty helping of romance at *breakneck* speed, so if you’re looking for a lush world of elves and men, political maneuvering, and an interesting magic system with a sciency, hard set of rules, I recommend you give this one a look!
Thanks to the publisher for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review. Essence of Stone launches on May 14, 2022.
First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts is a collection of romantic short stories centering on the sweetness of first love. I always find short story anthologies featuring multiple authors so interesting, because you never really know what you’re going to get!
This one is no different! There were some stories that were funny, some poignant, and some a little awkward, but overall I think this collection nailed the little bites of cute, clean romance.
The Castle of Ohno by S.E. White, an atmospheric, unique twist on Beauty and the Beast with voicey, interesting characters, was probably my favorite and definitely made me want to read on!
I also enjoyed Clyde and Coalesce by Kim Elliott, a super cute modern taken on Pride and Prejudice featuring an up and coming band and two roommates in a story that I wish was longer!
I also enjoyed how the stories of Marmalade Sunset and The Art of Making Doughnuts also showcased first loves at different stages of life with a more poignant take.
Overall, I thought this and enjoyable, light read, and would recommend to anyone looking for an uplifting collection of clean, sweet romance to fill an evening.
So after I read Beach Read by Emily Henry, I’ll admit, I jumped into this with some high expectations. After all, my husband and I go on a big traveling trip every year, this should’ve been right up my alley!
And there’s still a part of me that believes that I really should’ve liked this book… the characters were likable, I love traveling, and I like the writing style… but this one fell a little flat for me.
The premise is that Alex and Poppy are two very different (just) friends that take a summer trip every year for the last 10+ years. Half of the book is Poppy talking about those trips in flashbacks, and how basically for the last 10 years she’s been trying to convince herself she’s not into Alex. The other half of the book goes through their current trip, after they’ve gone two years without talking to each other, and it feels… super awkward.
And I can handle friends-to-lovers if it’s over a gradual (and relatively short) timescale, or if there’s something obviously in their way that needs to be fixed or lots of other if’s! But none of those things applied here, and in general, I felt like the concept of time was just way off in a lot of ways. Also their interactions felt strange to me- like in that uncanny valley between platonic love and not, and on top of that, if their vacations did have some kind of magic to them, I wasn’t feeling it.
But lots of people have liked this book, so maybe it was just me! If you like friends-to-lovers romance, don’t let me stop you! (But I might recommend Beach Read instead!)
This romance was adorable, and I could totally go for a movie adaption. Gus and January are college frenemies with chemistry that, years later, find themselves as neighbors during a particularly difficult summer.
I absolutely loved the history-with-chemistry vibe between Gus and January, and their slow-burn challenge throughout is pitch perfect. Their relationship builds naturally, and it still goes deeper than just their romance, as they both heal from the wounds that life has dealt them. Together they pick each other up, dust each other off, and remind one another of who they used to be.
Fantastically satisfying story I would recommend to anyone looking for a wonderful romance with some deeper themes of the ups and downs of life, and how much you can truly know someone. (And the audiobook was fantastic too!)
Picked this audiobook kind of randomly since it was available at the library, so I really didn’t know what to expect going into it. Don’t Look for Me takes the reader step-by-step through Molly Clark’s abduction, and then, simultaneously lets us into the POV of Molly’s 22ish-year-old daughter, Nicole, as she searches for her two weeks after her disappearance and the case has already been deemed a walk-away.
Molly’s abduction is terrifying in its gradualness, planning behind it, and the plausible deniability up until the moment when it’s too late to get away.
Similarly, as Nicole follows the clues (and the false ones) closer to her mother, the impending dread as she gets sucked into the creepy little town, ever nearing danger, is super intense and so well done.
Along the way, Molly and Nicole reflect on what led them to this moment and the parts they played in the breaking of their family.
The climax was a little weird to me, but this dark thriller still manages to leave its characters better off than where we left them, which I always appreciate!
With believable characters, a (mostly) satisfying resolution, and a growing sense of dread that will keep you turning pages, I highly recommend this tense thriller. (And the audiobook is especially good!)
I heard great things about this one through the Twitterverse, and when I saw it pitched for my little free library contest, I knew I had it grab it. It totally did not disappoint!
Everlong is a whimsical paranormal that follows Lily as she walks to “her bench” every night to write. There, she runs into sweet Sam, and they strike up an easy friendship. From there, things get a little more complicated for the pair as they come to learn more about each other.
The writing is beautiful, and the relationship that grows between the two feels incredibly natural. If you like friends-to-lovers, this story gets it exactly right. It is sweet, and poignant, and though we are in the mysterious world of paranormal, this story uses it to cast a light on the human side of it.
After the things I’d heard about this book, I was braced for the end, but honestly I found it a wonderful, poignant end to a great love story. (No tissues required over here, but if you’re a crier you might want to be armed in case.)
This story hits right in the feels, capturing our humanity in a little jar of whimsical paranormal. I’m so glad I picked this one up and can’t wait to share it with our little free library. Highly recommended to anyone who wants paranormal romance that goes beyond the surface.
Okay, I’ve read a few new picture books today, but This Town by Mark Restaino was definitely my favorite. The story is about a little girl as she grows up in a small town, all the people she meets along the way, and how her life is connected to the town around her. The illustrations are pleasing to the eye, the prose has a nice lilting rhyme to it, and when the story comes full circle, it’s very satisfying. This is actually the second excellently poignant picture book by Restaino I’ve read ,and I would also recommend taking a look at “How Could I Ever Forget?”
Would totally recommend this for ages 2-6! Thanks to Sandra’s Book Club for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Okay, continuing my Darynda Jones marathon. I *loved* the first two books of the Sunshine series, I thought the first two books of her Charley Davidson series were okay, so I picked up Betwixt.
This story follows Defiance as she comes in to a rather large inheritance in the town of Salem with lots of paranormal fun involved.
Once again, the author’s strengths shine here with lots of voice, an interesting world and setting, and lots of banter. But… once again the romance veered into insta-love territory that fell a little flat for me (Although I like Roan more than I like Reyes from Charley Davidson).
To add to that, about 70% of this book is someone telling the MC to do something: watch this video, do this other thing, we don’t have a lot of time and you’re in GRAVE danger – to which the MC finds some way to put off said thing she needs to do, OR she keeps getting interrupted by someone knocking on the door. Seriously, someone interrupts her by knocking on the door probably about 10 times! It was driving me insane!
I didn’t think the MC was quite as likeable as Charley or Sunshine, and some of the plotline (mainly not being able to afford the house) seemed a little contrived. And there’s a cliffhanger, which I’m not super a fan of. Overall, while I think the sequel has potential (there was a lot of set-up in this one) I don’t think I’ll be picking it up. However, the writing voice is fun, so if you’re into quirky paranormal, I still recommend you might try it from the library… although I think I’d point you to the author’s other series first.
This sci-fi dystopian follows Samara, an enslaved, enhanced assassin, and her mark, the idealistic resistance leader, Tristan, as their fates intertwine with that of their brutal, divided world.
I really enjoyed the intricate world-building in this tiered, futuristic society, and the action scenes kept the plot moving at a quick pace. Tristan is easy to like with his unassailable optimism, his devotion to his friends, his cause, and his interesting powers. And while it took me some time to warm up to Samara, she comes a long way throughout the story, and I was rooting for her by the end. Wyatt makes for an interesting, conflicted villain, and the side characters all have very distinct personalities. Probably my only real critique is there is an interesting element of fate running through the book which gave it a little bit of an insta-love spark that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but I think that’s just my subjective opinion.
Overall, I thought this was a very engaging, unique story that I would definitely recommend for fans of sci-fi, dystopian, and a slow burn romance. Heads up though, because the cliffhanger will definitely have you asking for the sequel!
Second Grave on the Left has most of the charm of the first book: humor, banter, great voice, and the return of our funny, badass grim reaper heroine. But once again we have another rather forgettable “solving a murder” plot and the insta-love romance with the dark & otherworldly Reyes didn’t really grow as much as I would’ve hoped. The additional world building was interesting with Charley’s powers growing, but although I’d say I enjoyed it (once again the audiobook narration is great), I expect the sequel to be more of the same, so I think I’ll probably stop the series here. If you really loved the first one though, I think you’ll also totally be into this one.