Book Review

Book Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult urban fantasy
Length: 336 pages
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.

From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic,where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.

VERY ATMOSPHERIC.

Well, I’m a bit disappointed in this because I think I hyped it up too much. I had heard how great it was and while I did like some parts it mostly fell flat for me.

I loved the atmosphere of Ernshaw’s novels. I feel the cold air, snow, witches, and everything else. She builds a well constructed small world that you can let yourself into. I liked getting the history of Nora’s family throughout the book and the mystery it left in solving what Nora’s gift would be.

Overall though, I found myself skimming portions. I thought it got really repetitive over the story line. Yes, there was a boy missing and a boy dead. And this fact was said over and over and over again. I wanted the characters to do something about it, not mention it one more time. When the action started to pick up in the last third of the book is when I was most invested in the mystery of the woods.

I did not see one of the twists coming because i had planned on a whole different scenario. I really enjoyed this and thought it fit right into the plot. A little bit creepy, a little bit sad, but the ending was great. I liked how it was written and gave the happy ending I’m always searching for.

Oh yes, the romance. I always struggle in one-book fantasy romances. I always think more should be added. In this case, I appreciated that the romantic aspects didn’t play a HUGE part, but were subtly woven in. They had a dark and charming aspect together that added to the whole vibe of the book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult urban fantasy
  • Language: some strong language throughout
  • Romance: kisses, a make-out in bed
  • Violence: murder by drowning, physical, forest fire, hypothermia

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Book Review

Book Review: The Vine Witch (The Vine Witch #1) by Luanne G. Smith

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy + Paranormal: witches
Length: 263 pages
Author: Luanne G. Smith
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

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.

THE IDEA WAS UNIQUE.

The execution was less so.

I was really into this book at first, that beginning chapter where our MC is a frog? That’s interesting. I want to know more. As things went on, it started to drag and then I was truly confused at the point of some of the characters.

Elena, as a vine witch, works on a vineyard to produce the most extraordinary wine. Back from a curse she seeks to figure out who did it to her. This aspect of her personality I liked. She was headstrong in solving this case and was firm in choosing what she wanted to do. At other times I felt she let others do the work for her, or was too “weak” from her curse to do anything. It made her a bit wishy-washy.

I really liked Jean-Paul! He felt like a smooooth character (if that even begins to make sense). I immediately saw the potential connection between him and Elena. This never really worked out…even though they were together by the end? They spent very little time together and had little conversation throughout the book. I could see the author was pushing for their relationship, but I was no longer interested *shrugs*. I wanted a deeper connection with all of the characters.

Especially the villain. What was the point of her? She was a crone that had no story, no reason to be after Elena, and I don’t even know how to end this sentence. It was so lackluster that I am flabbergasted as to how I want to explain it. Frankly, she was superfluous and only there to fuel a plot that didn’t have a guiding light.

I liked the concept. The story with the witches who help a vineyard? That’s really interesting! I haven’t read any paranormal books like that. I just thought everything else could have been worked out a little better. The French influence was a perfect tidbit too.

Overall audience notes:

  • Paranormal fantasy (witches)
  • Language: a little (sometimes strong)
  • Romance: a little detailed fade to black scene, some kisses
  • Violence: poison, ritual murdering of animals, murder; fairly detailed

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Book Review

Book Review: Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy
Length: 528 pages
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

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.

REID & LOU: NEW OTP.

In recent memory I can easily say that this was a book that actually lived up to the hype. I LOVED IT. Barely 50 pages in, I was hooked, and I wanted to savor the rest of this amazing story.

Loved this setting. Loved the writing. Love these characters.

Speaking of, REID y’all. I love how passionate he was (and rather stubborn too), but also very tender and had a big heart beneath it all. I liked the influence his religion played on all of his decisions and emotions. He stayed true to who he was, but also learned to be open and adapt to previously misleading information. He was SO CUTE and I adore him. His love scene with Lou was also unique for YA and I found it absolutely amazing and well done (and that’s all I will say on that to avoid spoilers, but you’ll understand if you’ve read it!).

Lou was a great MC too. I love how much she chooses love. Lou wanted more out of life than what she was handed and sought after those things and I applaud her for it. Her growth was immense and she learned a lot about herself too. It was so appealing to have both Reid and Lou see outside their boxes to learn and understand about one another.

Best friend alert: Ansel & Coco. OH MY GOODNESS. The side characters were fabulous! I loved this just as much as the MCs. They had a lot to offer and actually brought something to the table. Ansel was my sweet baby and I just want to love him forever okay? I beg the universe not to kill him off in the next book, I might shatter. HE WAS PERFECT. Coco was her own fiery beast that I would so be BFFs with. Easy to love, sneaky, loyal, yes yes yes. Beau was a great addition towards the end too. I’m very curious how he’ll play a part in book two.

Lots of action and intrigue in this book. The pacing kept me constantly intrigued. There was a steady flow of things happening, to slowing down a bit, and to not notice that this book was 500 pages is a stellar job all on it’s own. I enjoyed the villain immensely more than I even considered I might. They threw in some twists I didn’t see coming and were seriously, heinously evil. I will clap for that because I hate a wishy-washy bad guy.

BOOK TWO, I NEED YOU.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a detailed love scene
  • Violence: magical, blood magic, physical, knives, swords, poison, paralysis via drugs, torture, arrows

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Book Review

Book Review: The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles #1) by Laurie Forest

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy + paranormal (witches)
Length: 601 pages
Author: Laurie Forest
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.

GOOD ENOUGH TO PURSUE BOOK TWO.

I had heard about a million different conflicting reviews and issues with this book. But with a personal friends and Morrighan’s Review (give her a follow!) I chose to give it a chance.

Overall, it was good. I definitely had some issues with it but I liked what was being laid out and want to see where it continues to go.

Things I liked:

  • The way that racism was depicted as always a bad thing (this is a fantasy so it’s between the different races in the book: witches, fae, werewolves, etc.). Elloren (and others) would make me so mad with how they were all treating each other and the things they would do and say. But, as time went on Elloren consciously realized what she was doing and how wrong she was. This allowed her character to grow a lot and made the book so much better.
  • I really loved the setting. There wasn’t a lot of world-building, but I thought it was fun to have it at a school. I feel like any school setting is immediately judged against Harry Potter, but this is so vastly different I had a good time with it.
  • The nuanced relationships. Things were a lot more focused on friendships rather than relationships (though, those are definitely building up). Since Elloren was evolving she was opening herself up to new people and they were all learning from each other.

Things I struggled with:

  • For a witch her doesn’t have powers (but obviously does) they NEVER SHOWED UP. I thought surely within 600 pages we have that grand moment where her powers come in full force, but nope. So now I have to wait til I get book two to see how that comes out.
  • Elloren was a wreck most of the time. I felt she cried literally every other page (not saying crying is a bad thing, but if I notice something recurring that often, holy wow). Her emotions were kind of all over the place and boys were taking up a lot of her time.
  • There wasn’t much that moved the plot forward. She spent her time at school, making friends, overcoming her own misguided sense of hatred, but at the same time, it didn’t lead anywhere. Things are happening further away from her, but the “battle” hasn’t come to them yet. I guess this book was setting up for all to come.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + paranormal (witches)
  • Language: b**ch used a few times
  • Romance: a lightly passionate kiss
  • Violence: magic, physical, bullying
  • Trigger warnings: racism, bullying, racial slurs, animal cruelty

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