ARC Review: The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse

Special thanks to JABerwocky Literary Agency, Inc. for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: The Hand of the Sun King (Pact and Pattern #1)
Publisher: JABerwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Published: 05 August 2021
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.

All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother’s family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.

I can choose between them – between protecting my family, or protecting my people – or I can search out a better path . . . a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by Empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.

But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves . . .

TL;DR: My review turned into an essay because I had so much to say about this book and still, it does not do it justice. Safe to say that I enjoyed the heck out of this fantasy and I’m still surprised that it’s J.T. Greathouse’s debut novel?! Please, give me more! This is such a stunning fantasy and deserves so much more attention. If you’re a fan of wonderful prose, intricate world-building, fascinating magic, and messy characters that you can’t help but root for, I would highly recommend you check this one out!

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Hand of the Sun King by J.T. Greathouse”

Blog Tour Review: Creation by Bjørn Larssen

I’m back with another blog tour with The Storytellers on Tour for Creation (Why Odin Drinks #1) by Bjørn Larssen. Thanks to the SoT for organising and to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: Creation (Why Odin Drinks #1)
Publisher: josephtailor
Publication Date: 18 August 2021
Genre: Humorous Fantasy, Norse Mythology Retelling
CW: Contains the word “ass-thetics”

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

In the beginning there was confusion.

Ever woken up being a God, but not knowing how to God properly? Your brothers keep creating mosquitoes and celery and other, more threatening weapons. What can your ultimate answer be – the one that will make you THE All-Father and them, at best, the All-Those-Uncles-We-All-Have-But-Don’t-Talk-About?

“FML! The answer’s why I drink!” – Odin

Perfect for fans of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, and Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Creation by Bjørn Larssen”

ARC Review: Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi

Special thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Once More Upon a Time
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Published: 05 October 2021
Genre: Romance Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Once upon a dream, there was a prince named Ambrose
and a princess named Imelda who loved each other…
But alas, no more.
“What a witch takes, a witch does not give back!”
their friends and family warn.
They resign themselves to this loveless fate…
A year and a day pass.
And then their story truly begins…

Embark on a perilous journey with Imelda and Ambrose as they brave magical landscapes and enchanted creatures on their quest to reclaim their heart’s desire… But first they must remember what that is..

This was another wonderful (and super fast) buddy read with Julie @ One Book More! 😍 Chokshi is an author I’ve been meaning to check out for a while now and this small taste has convinced me I’ll enjoy her work!


TL;DR: Once More Upon a Time was a great novella that has great fairytale vibes! Despite being so short, it feels like a fully formed story with a fantastical setting, a journey full of magical creatures and adventure, and a good dose of romance. This has a sweet HEA that brings the story around full circle and I loved it! 😍

Continue reading “ARC Review: Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi”

ARC Review: Given to Darkness by Phil Williams

🥳 Happy Pub Day to Given to Darkness! 🎉

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Given to Darkness, book two in the Ikiri duology by Phil Williams. When I was approached by Phil to read the conclusion to this thrilling duology I immediately said yes because I remembered how much I enjoyed book one! Check out my review for Kept from Cages.

Special thanks to Phil Williams for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Given to Darkness (Ikiri Book 2)
Publisher: Rumian Publishing
Publication Date: 19 October 2021
Genre: Supernatural Action Thriller

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Ikiri demands blood. Whose will it be?

A malevolent force stirs from the heart of the Congo. One child can stop it – but everyone wants her dead. Reece Coburn’s gang have travelled half the world to protect Zipporah, only to find her in more danger than ever. Her violent father is missing, his murderous enemies are coming for them, and her brother’s power is growing stronger. Entire communities are being slaughtered, and it’s only getting worse.

They have to reach Ikiri before its corruption spreads. But there’s a long journey ahead, past ferocious killers and unnatural creatures – and very few people can be trusted along the way. Can two criminal musicians, an unstable assassin and a compromised spy reach Ikiri alive? What will it cost them along the way?

Pick up this exciting conclusion to the Ikiri duology today, for a supernatural thriller that will keep you hooked right to the finish

BUY A COPY:

Continue reading “ARC Review: Given to Darkness by Phil Williams”

First Impressions Spotlight: Dim Stars by Brian P. Rubin

I’m back with the The Storytellers on Tour today with a Book Blitz for Dim Stars by Brian P. Rubin and I’ll be sharing my first impressions of the book so far. Thanks to the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

Don’t forget to scroll to the end of the post to enter the GIVEAWAY (International) for the chance to win a signed paperback copy of the book!

The Gremlin

Goodreads: Dim Stars
Publisher: Critical Eye Publishing
Publication Date: 20 October 2020
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi

Kenzie Washington, fourteen-year-old girl genius, signs up for a two-week tour as a cadet on the spaceship of her idol, Captain Dash Drake. Too bad Dash, who once saved the galaxy from the evil Forgers, is a broke loser and much less than meets the eye. But when an intergalactic evil appears and launches an attack, Dash, Kenzie, and the ship’s crew escape, making them the next target. On the run and low on gas, Dash and Kenzie encounter cannibal space-pirates, catastrophic equipment failure, and a cyborg who’s kind of a jerk. Kenzie is determined to discover the bad guys’ secret plan. But for her to succeed, Dash needs to keep his brilliant, annoying cadet from getting killed …which is a lot harder than it sounds.

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Book Review: Seducing the Sorcerer by Lee Welch

Goodreads: Seducing the Sorcerer
Publisher: Self-published
Published: 23 September 2021
Genre: Fantasy Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Homeless and jobless, Fenn Todd has nearly run out of hope. All he has left is his longing for horses and the strength of his own two hands. But when he’s cheated into accepting a very ugly sackcloth horse, he’s catapulted into a world of magic, politics and desire.

Fenn’s invited to stay at the black tower, home of the most terrifying man in the realm: Morgrim, the court sorcerer. Morgrim has a reputation as a scheming villain, but he seems surprisingly charming—and sexy—and Fenn falls hard for him.

However, nothing is as it seems and everyone at the tower is lying about something. Beset by evil hexes, violent political intrigue and a horse that eats eiderdowns, Fenn must make the hardest choices of his life.
Can a plain man like Fenn ever find true love with a scheming sorcerer?

TL;DR: It took me a while to get engaged in the story but this might have more to do with my reading mood right now than the story itself. The magical sack horse is what piqued my interest but it was the romance that made me stay with the book because Fenn and Morgrim are so awkward and sweet that it made me want to scoop them up and put them in my pocket for safekeeping! They are so adorable and their romance was a delightful mix of vulnerability and tender moments mixed with some light BDSM in the bedroom and it was a great combination! 😉

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Blog Tour Review: The Goddess of Nothing at All by Cat Rector

I’m back with another blog tour with The Storytellers on Tour for The Goddess of Nothing at All by Cat Rector. Thanks to the author for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: The Goddess of Nothing at All
Publication Date: 01 October 2021
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Retelling

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

A dark fantasy Norse myth retelling for fans of Circe, The Witch’s Heart, and The Silence of the Girls

Perhaps you know the myths.
Furious, benevolent Gods.
A tree that binds nine realms.
A hammer stronger than any weapon.
And someday, the end of everything.

But few have heard of me.

Looking back, it’s easy to know what choices I might have made differently. At least it feels that way. I might have given up on my title. Told my father he was useless, king of Gods or no, and left Asgard. Made a life somewhere else.

Maybe I would never have let Loki cross my path. Never have fallen in love.
But there’s no going back.
We were happy once.
And the price for that happiness was the end of everything.

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: The Goddess of Nothing at All by Cat Rector”

ARC Review: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was a buddy read with the wonderful Leslie @ Books are the New Black and I’m so glad we read it together! We sped through the book in less than two days and we both laughed, cried and surprisingly, also had the same thoughts and feelings about the ending! Definitely a fun one to read together 😊


Goodreads: Under the Whispering Door
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: 21 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Light Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy. 

PRE-ORDER A COPY:

Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.

TL;DR: TJ Klune has such a knack for writing books that are cosy and feel like warm hugs while also being able to shatter your feelings, and this book delivered all of that in spades! I had some long and loud laughs but it also tore at my feelings and had me ugly crying for… a good chunk of that ending. Safe to say, this was quite the emotional journey but I honestly didn’t expect it’d be anything different! If you enjoy Klune’s charming writing, witty humour, and endearing characters, then I have no doubt that you will enjoy this book. I want more of Hugo, Wallace, Mei, Nelson, Apollo and Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats, please!

CW/TW: Death of a parent, death of a child, suicide, murder (stabbing), car accident


“We live and we breathe. We die, and we still feel like breathing. It’s not always the big deaths either. There are little deaths, because that’s what grief is.”

Considering that The House in the Cerulean Sea was my favourite read of 2020, I went into this book with fairly high expectations and anticipation. This was a real slow-burn of a story but with it’s simple and compelling writing, it was still a relatively quick and easy read. There were moments when the writing did more “telling” than “showing”, which made it feel a bit clunky and detached at times, but the story is infused with TJ Klune’s witty and humorous charm, and I loved it!

Fitting with the pace, I felt this was more of a ‘quiet’ story—it’s not flashy but it’s full of heart and it creeps up on you with a grounding sort of comfort. I wouldn’t necessarily say this was uplifting either but it does explore worthwhile topics like death, loss and grief, and poses questions such as what does it mean to be alive, what constitutes a well-lived/fulfilled life and how to cope with death. The story has platitudes aplenty about living your best life, being kind to others and being the best person that you can be, and I have to admit that there was little subtlety in the telling. But while I don’t think it introduced anything new or groundbreaking to the discussion I personally had no problem with that and still managed to thoroughly enjoy the story for the cheesiness it does bring.

“She brightened. “Oh, and I’m your Reaper, here to take you where you belong.” And then, as if the moment wasn’t strange enough, she made jazz hands. ‘Ta da.'”

What made my enjoyment of this story so full however was the amazing cast of characters that Klune brings to life. They are quirky and endearing and they wormed their way into my heart so quickly! I took some notes while reading and 90% of them were variations of: “OMG STAHP I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS SO MUCH!!!” (I’m not even kidding lol.) The found family trope is one of my all-time favourites and there is big found family energy in this that makes it so easy to feel invested in these characters and their stories. Wallace, Hugo, Mei, Nelson and the adorkably clumsy ghost-doggo, Apollo, tugged so hard on my emotional strings. They had me laughing and crying and all I wanted was to hang out at the tea shop and be friends with them.

“We’re here to make sure they see that life isn’t always about living. There are many parts to it, and that it continues on, even after death. It’s beautiful, even when it hurts.”

Hugo was such a soft, empathetic cinnamon roll who lived for tea and to do his best to help those who’ve passed to cross over. Mei is a reaper who brings souls to Hugo and I loved her so much from the moment we meet her. She’s loud and hilarious and so full of life that it just beams off the pages! Much like Wallace, Nelson and Apollo are ghosts and semi-permanent residents of Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats. Nelson is Hugo’s grandfather and I loved this man so freaking much! He was fun-loving, mischievous and delightfully cheeky, as many endearing grandfatherly characters are. Being so big-hearted, generous and patient made all the characters complete opposites of Wallace, but in finding himself surrounded by them, it was great to see him come to the realisation that being kind and selfless reaps greater rewards than being cold and cruel, and that perhaps being surrounded by love and warmth is better than having everything and still, nothing. The romance between Wallace and Hugo was also heart-achingly sweet. It’s a slow burn that grows steadily from wary strangers, to steady friendship and builds up to a great love. Their inability to interact normally created a feeling of such bittersweet longing and oh, my. They were easy to ship!

“If this is a way station, if this is just one stop on a journey, you’re the better part of it.”

Although the plot was predictable and it was clear where the story was heading, I was still a little disappointed that it ended the way it did. I know a lot of people will love it and I probably would’ve too had I read this a few years ago because who doesn’t want that well-rounded happy ever after? However, I felt that it was just too neat and simple (idealistic even?) and in a way I felt that it even took away some of the story’s power. But did it stop me from being completely emotionally devastated? No. Was I still quietly ugly crying into my pillow at 2AM and wondering how I could make it all hurt less? Yes! Did it still leave me wanting moremoremore of these characters and other stories from the Charon’s Crossing Tea and Treats shop? Abso-freaking-lutely!

Have you read Under the Whispering Door or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review: Shadow Frost by Coco Ma

Special thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost #1)
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date: 01 October 2019
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(2.5 pandas)

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned.


When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.

To kill it.

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

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TL;DR: Shadow Frost is a book that younger me would’ve devoured and unquestionably loved but older me is feeling quite conflicted about it. Coco Ma has created a vast world with interesting deity lore, an elemental magic system and a huge cast of characters. That said, the world building was haphazard, the pacing was choppy, and the characters were fairly one-dimensional. I think this book suffered from trying to do too much at one time and it uses a lot of very typical YA tropes about royal families, their bodyguards and friends. There’s a nice found family element which I always love but ultimately, this didn’t work out so well for me.

Before kicking off my review, I have to say that I am impressed by the fact that Coco Ma wrote this when she was 15! I can’t fathom writing something like this now let alone when I was a teenager, so major props to her for creating this intriguing world of magic!


I’m quite conflicted about this book because while I think there were interesting elements as well as characters that I did like, I felt that the story was bogged down by trying to include too much at once. It seemed like the author was trying to cram in as much as possible to cover a lot of bases and unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. The story itself was also nothing new to the genre and didn’t bring anything so unique for it to stand out from the crowd.

Coco Ma presents a vast world with many neighbouring nations, intriguing lore of the gods/goddesses, and an elemental magic system involving the use of stones to channel the magic that resides within a person. People also belonged under certain houses that correlated with patron gods/goddesses but I can’t say exactly how it works because it was unclear to me. The world-building is patchy at best with lots of info-dumping across the story. There were inconsistencies in descriptions, items and language, that made me question whether this was set in a modern or historical period and I’m still not quite sure which it is. This made it difficult for me to picture the settings and sadly, it also affected how I pictured the characters in that, aside from one or two that had their appearance literally shoved in your face, the rest were kind of non-descript.

The writing itself wasn’t bad rather it was the inconsistent pacing that made it hard for me to focus and made this, quite honestly, a bit of a slog to read… The beginning is slow until about 30% and then they’re (very) suddenly off on a quest to find the demon and the pace builds up, only for it to slow down again for a large portion of the story until the action starts up at the end. There’s really not a lot that happens here and I had to push myself to not DNF this.

The characters were all quite typical of YA fantasies that follow the ruling royals, their bodyguards and friends. They’re not 100% cookie-cutter but they are quite one-dimensional and I didn’t form strong attachments to (m)any of them. That said, there is a pretty large cast and surprisingly, we also get almost all of their POVs and it was… A lot! I didn’t expect there to be so many viewpoints and those POVs often changed within chapters, which got pretty confusing at times, especially when there was little to distinguish them from each other. They were fairly angsty teenagers who focused on baffling things during inappropriate times and often made illogical and rash decisions with weak justifications. I didn’t particularly like Asterin, our ‘chosen one’ princess who was good at everything and who everyone loved. She was spoiled, self-absorbed, selfish and quite frankly, a bad friend. The characters who intrigued me the most were Rose and Harry, and though we got their POVs, I would’ve definitely loved to see more from them compared to the others. Again, I feel like if there were fewer POVs, there would’ve been room to give the characters more depth and space for us to care more about them. There are also several romantic pairings and because I didn’t really care for the characters, I wasn’t invested in any of the ships and found some of them to be cringeworthy (no matter how accurate, I don’t think using ‘brat’ as a term of endearment for the person you “love” is attractive, especially when you’re the person it’s being said to).

With all that said, I did become more intrigued by the end. The plot does become intensely dramatic and over the top but I wanted answers and I have more questions than I did at the start. There is also a certain character arc that surprised me and I’m curious to see how the new dynamic affects the friendships and the story. Will I pick up the next book though? I know this is something that younger me would’ve devoured without questions and would’ve (most probably) absolutely adored! But while I am curious now, I’m not sure it’s enough for me to want to read on.

Have you read Shadow Frost or is it on your TBR?

Blog Tour Review: Small Places by Matthew Samuels

I’m back with another blog tour with The Storytellers on Tour for Small Places by Matthew Samuels. Thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: Small Places
Publication Date: 03 August 2021
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Small Places is a no-nonsense urban fantasy fairy story. Jamie, a shy, lonely boy, runs an errand for a witch as a child, helping them ease a family friend’s experience of cancer. Thirteen years later, Jamie’s own mother is suffering from terminal cancer as well, and he’s come back to his childhood village to spend more time with her before the end. He receives a card from the witch, Melusine, asking for his help – and casting his mind back to his childhood experience – goes to see her, hoping she can help his mother. Amidst freak earthquakes and storms, he’s drawn into working with the bad-tempered Mel in an effort to find out what’s wrong with Gaia, the earth spirit, as they visit the Seelie and Unseelie courts, finding the former racist and the latter paranoid, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls along the way.

It’ll appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series, Charles de Lint’s work or Clive Barker’s Abarat series.

CW: Strong language and violence throughout, with some graphic injury detail, scenes of involuntary restraint, giant spiders, dead animals, implied cruelty to animals, and some fantastical creatures of a horrifying nature

TW: Cancer, mention of previous self-harm and an instance of a drink being tampered with

BUY A COPY NOW!

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Small Places by Matthew Samuels”