Review: Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne

Feather and Flame (The Queen's Council, #2)Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Feather and Flame is the second book is Disney’s The Queen Council series.

If you are unaware, this series imagines what happened post-happily ever after for some of our favorite Disney Princesses. Each book is the story of a different heroine written by a different author.

This story follows Mulan after her victory on the battlefield at the end of the animated film.

As the story begins, Mulan is living a quiet life at home. Well, quiet if you consider training her own female militia quiet. But China is at peace and it is a good feeling.

When Shang arrives with an invitation to the Imperial City, Mulan has no idea that her entire life is about to be flipped on its head. Again.

Once there, Mulan is treated to a private counsel with the ailing Emperor. He tells her he has a plan for his succession and it is her. She will be named his heir to the throne.

Unfortunately, the transition occurs more quickly than Mulan would have preferred. She is terrified, but must do what she can to rule her country to the best of her abilities.

With enemies lurking around every corner and the Huns sensing weakness, will Mulan’s reign be doomed from the start?

Mulan is filled with doubt and she’s scared. She feels alone. What if she can’t do this? There’s so much at stake.

Luckily, the Queen’s Council is there to help Mulan find her true destiny. What is the Queen’s Council, you may be asking?

I don’t want to give anything away, so let’s just call it Mulan’s Spirit Advisor. Not spiritual advisor, mind you, SPIRIT advisor.

I had a lot of fun reading this story. It was great to be back with Mulan and to get an extension of her story that I think was greatly needed.

I have always loved Mulan as a character. She has such a quiet grace about her. She is humble, strong and determined in the face of danger. I was so happy to see that she kept all of these wonderful characteristics throughout this story.

This is a highly political story, so for those of you who maybe don’t enjoy a lot of political maneuverings in your stories, you have been forewarned.

For me, I love political fantasy, so this worked for me. I would have been happy with a bit more depth, but overall, I was quite pleased with this one!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books. I look forward to getting the next installment of this series!

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Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

GildedGilded by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gilded is the latest release from the ultimate Queen of Retellings, Marissa Meyer.

Pitched as a haunted retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, Gilded was one of my most anticipated 2021-releases. I preordered the heck out of this book and am so pleased that it now graces my shelves.

The narrative follows, Serilda, a miller’s daughter, who spends her days spinning tales for the children in her village. Her stories are wildly entertaining and full of untruths, even though to hear her tell them, you would think everything she says is possible.

Serilda is a truly gifted storyteller. Cursed years ago by the God of Lies, Serilda’s talent was bound to get her in over her head eventually.

When one of her stories draws the attention of the Erlking and his wild hunters, Serilda gets drawn beyond the veil into a world of ghouls, phantoms and other mythical creatures.

Based on her story, the Erlking demands that Serilda weave straw into gold for him, locking her in a tower, threatening her life if the task isn’t completed by morning.

After a mysterious boy appears in her tower room, Serilda discovers he has the exact magic she needs to save herself.

But who is he and what does he want with her? As the two get to know one another, their fates become intertwined in Serilda’s epic battle to free herself from the Erlking’s clutches.


As mentioned above, I had been really excited to get my hands on this book and it did not disappoint. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the audiobook from the publisher, Macmillan Audio. I decided to go with the audio version because of that and I am so glad that I did!

I previously listened to the entire Lunar Chronicles series on audio and had such a blast with it. To my sheer delight, I quickly discovered this audio is performed by the same fantastic narrator, Rebecca Soler!

She just has the perfect voice for Meyer’s stories. Whimsical and captivating, she breezes through Meyer’s whip-smart dialogue like she had written it herself.

In fact, that is one of my favorite aspects of Meyer’s writing; the dialogue. It is always so witty and fun, keeping me smiling even during the most intense scenes. Serilda’s perspective provided plenty of opportunity for Meyer to show off that comical style.

I actually read this entire story believing it to be a standalone novel. Surprise and elation, it is not!

This is actually the first in a duology, with the second book expected to be released next November. I cannot wait to find out the conclusion to Serilda’s story. I will definitely be rereading this one prior to that release.

If you have enjoyed previous works from Meyer, or just love a dark fairytale retelling, you absolutely need to pick this one up and give it a shot.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to listen to and review. It’s an incredible story with some phenomenal narration to boot!

I cannot wait for the continuation of this story. 2022, here we come!!!

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Review: Evil Thing (Villains #7) by Serena Valentino

Evil Thing (Villains, #7)Evil Thing by Serena Valentino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Cruella DeVil, like many villains before her, is grossly misunderstood. In Evil Thing, Valentino does a great job building a backstory for one of my favorite villains.

Beginning when she is just a young child, Evil Thing explores the key relationships in Cruella’s life, particularly that with her Mama, Father and Anita.

Through the examination of these relationships, the Reader begins to understand how Cruella developed into the person we come to know through the original-101 Dalmatians animated film.

In fact, there is even a portion at the end that overlaps with the timeline from that original movie.

The narrative is told from Cruella’s perspective, as if she is recounting her life story. The narrator, Susanne Blakeslee, absolutely nailed Cruella’s voice and intonation. It was an incredible voice performance; highly recommend the audiobook.

Having read previous books in this series, I was actually surprised by the level of depth this one had. Pleasantly surprised.

Cruella’s story is a tragic one, full of disappointments, neglect and heartbreak. I felt for her, but I also wanted to shake her. She seemed to be blinded by love a lot of time; unable to see people for who they truly were, to her detriment.

Overall, this is an engaging and fast-paced story. If you are a Cruella fan, I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Also, please do listen to the audiobook if you have the opportunity. It really is a stellar Cruella performance.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really enjoyed my time with it!

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Review: Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Within These Wicked WallsWithin These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andromeda, known as Andi, is a debtera; essentially, an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. Raised by a man named Jember, who Andi considers to be her father, she was trained by one of the best.

Jember is well known for his exceptional abilities as a debtera, but he’s paid for them; left with chronic pain and disability after previous jobs.

Andi and Jember have a complicated relationship. No matter how much she seeks his love and acceptance, she never seems to get it.

Thus, she finds herself at the cusp of adulthood on her own. She needs to start making her own way. When she gets offered a position to cleanse the mysterious Rochester household of a crippling case of the Evil Eye, she accepts.

The Rochester home is her first big commission on her own and obviously, she’s anxious about it. It doesn’t help that Andi quickly realizes this is a massive job; with horrifying manifestations around every corner.

The master of the house, Magnus Rochester, is charming and endearing, but also a bit of a rascal. Andi feels an almost instant attraction to him. Frankly, it would be hard not to be.

She vows to herself to do everything she possibly can to help him, even if it means putting her own life at risk.

Within These Wicked Walls is a debut Fantasy from author, Lauren Blackwood. Described as an Ethiopian-inspired retelling of Jane Eyre, this novel delivered exactly what I was hoping for.

I really enjoyed this story. The atmosphere was fantastic, dripping with danger and dark gothic vibes. Andi was an incredible main character to follow; I felt like I could really get behind her.

Magnus, as well, was a delight to read. I wanted to help him as much as Andi did; he was in so much trouble when she came to him. The stakes were extremely high and time was of the essence.

Andi’s life had not been easy. All the poor thing wanted was someone to love her; to feel like she belonged to someone, somewhere. It actually broke my heart a wee bit.

In spite of everything, she had such a capacity to give love and I wanted that for her. With this being said, the relationship between Andi and Magnus does tread a bit into Instalove territory; so, if this is a problem for you, you’ve been forewarned.

I didn’t mind it. I thought their banter was adorable and I was rooting for them.

I did find some of the magic system, for example, how Andi was working her amulets in order to cleanse the Evil Eye, a little confusing. Also, there were moments when I felt the narrative dragged just a little, or scenes became repetitive.

For the most part, though, those tiny things really didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story. This is an absolutely excellent debut.

It’s compelling from the start and the narrative solidly delivers what the synopsis promised. I definitely recommend this one for your Spooky Season TBR!

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio for providing me with copies to read and review.

I cannot wait to read more from Lauren Blackwood in the future. Exceptional debut!!!

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Review: Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy HollowHorseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Sleepy Hollow is back in this cleverly-imagined Historical Fiction Horror novel from Christina Henry!!

Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow is set twenty-years after Ichabod Crane’s run-in with the infamous, Headless Horseman.

The legend is still told in town, but with that many years separating the incident from reality, people’s belief in the accuracy of the story, and the Horseman himself, have begun to dwindle.

Even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there on the night in question, passes the story off as village gossip. Nevertheless, Ben still enjoys playing Sleepy Hollow Boys in the local woods with his only friend, Sander.

Ben, born a girl, has never seen himself that way and chooses to live the way he feels, as a boy, regardless of how much his grandmother, Katrina, fights him on it.

It’s on one of these occasions, playing in the woods, that the first body is discovered. A local boy, missing his head and hands. Ben feels a dark energy permeating from the woods; could the Horseman be back?

When more victims start to be discovered, Ben doesn’t understand how people can continue to deny the ominous presence lurking just outside the village.

Discovering his own parent’s deaths may not have occurred how his Grandparents relayed to him, Ben now realizes he has a mystery to solve. Something is going on in his town and he needs to do whatever he can to protect the ones he loves.

Horseman sets a spooky tone from the very start; perfect material for this time of year, I have to say. If you are a fan of previous Sleepy Hollow content, including the original tale, I really feel this one is worth checking out.

I am always impressed by Henry’s dark imagination. While this is a bit of a slow burn, I had a great time reading it.

In my opinion, the story was original and fresh. The paranormal/spooky elements were well-constructed and I enjoyed getting to know Ben as a character.

As a 14-year old, Ben was strong-willed and courageous. Spurred on by the mysteries circling the town and his family, Ben was willing to do anything to get to the bottom of it all. I was definitely able to get behind that level of determination.

This is the perfect type of tale to pick up as we get closer to Halloween, but really, aren’t spooky stories perfect all year-round?

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate it.

Horseman releases today, Tuesday, September 28th!!

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Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables #1)A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two girls destined to die have their fates crossed, perhaps altering their once doomed outcomes, in this whimsical modern-day reimagining of Sleeping Beauty

Due to an industrial accident, Zinnia Gray, was left with a rare and fatal condition. The prognosis of which means she won’t live to see her 22nd-birthday.

As bleak as that is, Zin has had a great life, surrounded by people who love her so much. Including her best friend, Charm, who decides to throw Zin a Sleeping Beauty-themed party for her 21st-birthday, complete with tower and spinning wheel.

Zin, not really in the mood to party, goes along with it nevertheless. Charm put in so much effort. As the festivities come to a close, Zin pricks her finger on the spinning wheel at midnight, and is thusly transported into another world. It happens to be where the real Briar Rose lives.

It is there that the two women’s lives become intertwined, as they work together to try to save themselves from their fates.

It’s no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but I never give up on an author off after only one try. This story is the perfect example of why. Oh, my goodness!

Wow, holy smokes. I am floored by how different my opinion of Harrow’s writing is now; after only 128-pages. Alix E. Harrow redeemed!!!

As mentioned above, this is a fairly short novella, but no less impactful because of it. It is a rollicking good time, with adventure, friendship, danger and just the right amount of hat tipping to the original story.

I loved the feminist undertones woven throughout, as well as the relationship formed between Zin and Briar Rose. The dynamic between them was just so fun. Because they were from completely different worlds, they had a lot to discover about one another, but Harrow kept it so witty and fun!

I’m really interested to see if Harrow tackles other fairy tales in this format. If so, I would definitely be willing to pick them up.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for providing me with a copy to read and review. I listened to it all in one night and had an absolute blast doing so!!

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Review: What Once Was Mind (Twisted Tales #12) by Liz Braswell

What Once Was MineWhat Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

What Once Was Mine is the 12th-installment in Disney’s long-running Twisted Tales series. So far, I have read 10 out of the 12 books and definitely have plans to read them all!

If you are unfamiliar with this fantastic series, you can read these books in any order. Each one tackles a different Disney story, twisting one major plot point and then examining what would have happened because of that twist.

In this volume, Liz Braswell twists the tale of Rapunzel, or the movie, Tangled, if you prefer to look at it that way.

Worried about the life of their ailing Queen, pregnant with her first child, the citizens of Corona search for the infamous Sundrop flower to cure her, but end up picking a Moondrop flower accidentally.

Because of this one tiny error, the baby girl, Rapunzel, has silver hair, the color of the moon, dangerous to the touch.

In order to keep everyone safe, the Queen and King make the heartbreaking decision to have Rapunzel locked away in a Tower, far from the kingdom proper, and watched over by a powerful goodwife, Mother Gothel.

Rapunzel dutifully stays put for 18-years. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but the pull of seeing the floating lights on her birthday is just too strong.

She sets out on an adventure of epic proportions with two theives, Flynn and Gina, on a search for her happily ever after.

Y’all, this book is an absolute blast to read. Dare I say, the BEST TWISTED TALE YET!!!

If you love the story of Rapunzel, the cute and quirky characters within it, or you think that the movie Tangled is a true gem to be watched on repeat because of its glorious good humor, you absolutely have to get your hands on this book!

I have never jived with Braswell’s writing as much as I did with this one. She really shines here, bringing this story and these characters to life in a whole new ((moon))light!!

A hearty thank you to the publisher, Disney Books and Disney Audio, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It absolutely filled my heart!

What Once Was Mine will be released on Tuesday, September 7th!!!

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Review: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Lost in the Never WoodsLost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Five years ago, Wendy Darling and her two brothers, Michael and John, went missing in the local woods.

Six months later, Wendy was found. She had no memory of her time away, or the fate of her little brothers.

After she returns, the police question her pretty hard, not sure how much of her story they can believe. Perhaps she knows more than she is letting on.

Now in her Senior year of high school, Wendy is working at a hospital and trying to move on with her life, although she is still plagued with thoughts of her brothers.

When children start disappearing again, in ways similar to Wendy and her brothers, all eyes look to her for answers.

She feels no closer to knowing what really happened all those years ago, but something is definitely going on, as the boy she thought lived only in her stories becomes real.

Peter Pan. He is real and he is pleading with Wendy for her help finding his shadow; the villain of this tale.

Lost in the Never Woods was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The first 10% seemed really promising and the last 10% gave me a conclusion that felt satisfying. However, everything in between was a giant slog.

The tone was quite melancholy and morose. The pace was incredibly slow, the relationships forced and the magical elements felt bland. Not what I was hoping for.

The writing style itself was good. It had a pleasing flow and you can tell that Thomas put a lot of thought into the real world issues discussed; grief, guilt, PTSD, those aspects were well done.

Overall, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for and I never felt connected. With this being said, there is a Reader for every book and vice versa.

So, don’t take my word for it. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, give it a go. It could end up being your new favorite book!

I will definitely pick up more work from this author in the future. I already own Cemetery Boys and am really excited to get to that one!

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Review: Malice by Heather Walter

MaliceMalice by Heather Walter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, an evil fairy cursed a line of Princesses to die. The only way to break the curse, true love’s kiss.

You may be thinking you’ve heard this story before, right?

I’d say, not quite like this. in Malice, Heather Walter has put her own darkly creative spin on the beloved tale, Sleeping Beauty.

Alyce is a Dark Grace, living in a house of Beauty Graces since she was just a young girl.

While the wealthy of Briar set appointments with the other Graces to enhance their beauty, they go to Alyce for more sinister potions and tinctures.

Alyce has never fit in with the other girls and is frequently harassed by them; particularly by the beautiful and talented, Rose.

As deplorable as their treatment of her is, Alyce grows used to it. She even comes to accept it, in a way.

That’s why when she crosses paths with the last Princess, Aurora, and Aurora shows her kindness, Alyce isn’t quite sure how to react. Why would the Princess want to be friends with her? It doesn’t make any sense.

In the midst of all of this, Alyce actually stumbles upon, and befriends someone else. Kal, a man magically imprisoned in a tower, who promises to teach her how to harness her powers.

Through her meetings with him, Alyce begins to learn more about her history, potential and the world outside of Briar.

The world Walter created within this story was absolutely immersive. I loved the magic system. Learning about the Graces and their powers, but also the interactions with Fae and the history of Briar.

It’s richly detailed, but in a way that stays engaging. Alyce was a fantastically created character. I felt her every emotion; also extra points for including her kestrel, Callow. Three cheers for animal companions.

I also thought the relationship between Alyce and Aurora was well done. It felt natural. The stakes were really high and it definitely pushed the drama of the story.

I did feel like the end dragged on a bit, but overall, I was so impressed with this. I would definitely recommend Malice for Readers who enjoy the darker side of fairy tales.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from Heather Walter!

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Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

The Wife UpstairsThe Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-star**

Channeling the naturally gothic atmosphere of the American South, The Wife Upstairs puts a decidedly modern twist on a beloved classic.

Jane Bell is new to Alabama. Living on the outskirts of the posh neighborhood of Thornfield Estates, Jane originally works in a coffee shop, but then takes up dog-walking for the wealthy families within Thornfield.

She begins to learns the ins-and-outs of their lifestyle, envying and occasionally taking a little something for herself.

Jane is especially interested in the largest and most opulent property of all, imagining what it would be like to live there.

Once she meets the homeowner, a handsome young Widower, Eddie Rochester, things begin to change quite quickly for Jane.

As she and Eddie start a relationship, Jane can’t help but be curious about his late-wife, Bea, whose presence is still very much felt in his life.

The more she learns about Bea, the more she wonders what Eddie sees in her?

When questions begin to arise about Bea’s death, Jane becomes even more suspicious of the man she believes she is falling in love with.

Full of small town gossip and drama, this story was a cleverly-plotted, modern-interpretation of Jane Eyre. While I have never read Jane Eyre, after this, I really want to!

I really enjoyed how Hawkins gave us alternating perspectives between present-time, Jane, and past-Bea. The evolution of the story was very nicely done.

These perspective shifts also made the reveals fun and fast-paced.

Even though most of us know the basic outline of this story, I enjoyed where Hawkins took it.

In particular, I enjoyed how morally grey, Jane was. She’s not a helpless Ingenue looking for a savior. She is clearly a girl who can take care of herself. I loved that.

If you are in the mood for a fast, super-fun domestic suspense novel, look no further. Pick this book up and enjoy the show!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with copy of this to read and review. I appreciate it so much and look forward to Hawkins writing more in the Adult space!

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