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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Book Review

Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

 

 

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Audience: Young adult, some language, love scene/kissing, very little violence
Length: 310 pages
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: March 6th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I AM A BAG OF MIXED EMOTIONS.

I’m not sure how I feel. On the one hand, yes, solid ending, made sense, okay cool. On the other hand…no, not quite what I was going for, am I happy about this? I’m not sure. I think I’m satisfied?

The writing, world-building and folklore surrounding Sparrow was unique. I liked the the way the current Sparrow flowed with the town 200 years ago. While totally unfortunate this secluded location is still swamped in the Swan Sisters, it made for a good story.

It’s a quick read that kept me busy. I did see the plot twist from about ten miles away, but that didn’t deter me. Instead, I was enough in the dark about the resolve of the story as a whole I surged on to the finale.

Marguerite, Aurora, and Hazel [the Swan Sisters] are really the main characters. They have clear personalities and a bond that you couldn’t help but understand. Hazel broke my heart a few times over with her personal struggles. The story flashes backward every few chapters tying in the modern tale with how the girls became who they are today. Everything fit in smoothly and I never felt lost.

I did struggle with the twist because there was such a repetitive “everything is a secret, I can’t spill my secret” nature. It would have come off better in my opinion to actually be a little more blind-sided (thus, upping the mystery factor). I started getting frustrated that Bo and Penny wouldn’t just talk to each other. Not everything has to be hidden!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy/paranormal [witches], but set in contemporary Oregon
  • A love scene or two that are very glossed over, not descriptive; some kissing, etc.
  • Some expletive language
  • Minor violence (drownings)
Book Review

Review: The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life.jpg

 

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Audience: Adult, a tiny bit of language, a few love scenes, kiss/make-outs, some violence/torture
Length: 584 pages
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Viking Adult
Release Date: July 15th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

 

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bringing the magic and suspense of the All Souls Trilogy to a deeply satisfying conclusion, this highly anticipated finale went straight to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. In The Book of Life, Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

FINALLY AT THE END.

Well, I’m neither happy nor sad this is over. It was an okay series.

Yet again, you can honestly skip whole chapters and have missed nothing. The story finally swung around and started focusing on the actual, Book of Life (solid pun, right?).

There was also the addition of more characters that took a front running, THAT WERE HARDLY MENTIONED THE ENTIRE TIME. Turns out, this vamp was rather important to the plot of the series. Too many side stories that only kinda helped everything.

More on the adult side, a tiny bit of language. A few semi-descriptive love scenes. Descriptions of violence and torture.

Book Review

Review: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night

 

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Adult, a tiny bit of language, a handful of love scenes, lots of kisses & make-outs, some violence
Length: 584 pages
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Viking Adult
Release Date: July 10th, 2012
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

 

BOOK SUMMARY:

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I HATE THAT I SOMEHOW ENJOY THIS.

Alright, well, I sped-read (I mean really, flew through unnecessary paragraphs at an alarming rate) and was still able to grasp the entire book. Goes to reiterate, this book is entirely too long and with too many side plots that sway from the trilogies original intentions.

Once again I struggled with the atmosphere of vampires. I think that kind of character is just too much for me. Though, Gallowglass is definitely my favorite side character from this spectacle. I love that he calls Diana, “Auntie” and watches our for her while adding in chuckling anecdotes.

This book was spent 95% in 1590 Elizabethan London. That’s too much time y’all. I was so ready for everyone to be back in the 21st Century and actually focus on the problem at hand, Ashmole 782. The entire series is predicated on this manuscript and it doesn’t seem to even be that big of a focus throughout. The book, truthfully, focuses more on the love story between Matthew and Diana. And while I don’t have a problem with that, that’s where the synopsis and the beginning plot lines should have sprung from. I think I thought too much into where the plot was really taking me. It’s almost more a romance novel than anything else.

I still did appreciate reading about the love story. It’s tender, and Diana has more a backbone in this book at least. The human intentions and emotions from meeting people from the past gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s enough for me to speed through this last book so I can at least know what the ending holds.

Very little language. A handful of love scenes that range from a soft gloss-over to detailed (though not as erotic as we all know some books go haha). Too many vampires to not have a decent dose of violence.

 

 

Book Review

Review: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness

ADOW

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ [truthfully some unknown number between 3 & 4]
Audience: Adult, a tiny bit of language, a few love scenes, lots of kisses & make-outs, some violence
Length: 579 pages
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Release Date: February 2011
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I AM SO AT ODDS WITH THIS BOOK.

Okay y’all. The reason my star rating is “somewhere between 3 & 4” is because goodness gracious, I can’t decide what I feel about this book! Stay with me here. My thoughts may get scattered.

I definitely give points to the concept. I think it’s cool! It’s a different spin on Vampires, Witches and Daemons. Also, it spans such big time periods! I actually like that Matthew is 1500+ years old because there is so much to his background.

My issue stems from the fact that, generally speaking, I hate vampire books. I read (and enjoyed) the Twilight series, but after that I felt done. Since then, if I realize a book is about vampires it usually ends up on my DNF shelf with no remorse.

Matthew being a vampire didn’t ruin this book for me, but his dynamic occasionally bugged me. He felt too possessive, demanding, stubborn, stealthy, etc. Which then made Diana appear way too meek, submissive, and just an overall sense of: STAND UP FOR YOURSELF WOMAN.

While I felt their love story had truly good moments, the action of the book never heightened enough. I kept asking myself, was that all? Maybe that’s why I’m at odds. I kept reading expecting more, but never got it, yet enjoyed it, but also skimmed it, and this run-on sentence could just keep going. It was too long of a book, with a lot of side stuff that got in the way, so I sped-read through those bits to get to the heart of the novel.

I will pick-up the second book and reconvene here for a determination as to whether the third book is worth my time.

Book leans more towards adult, very very little language. Some kiss/make-out scenes. A few love scenes that are semi-descriptive. A bit of violence.