THE VINE WITCH by Luanne G Smith

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. 


Title : The Vine Witch
Author : Luanne G. Smith
Series : Vine Witch #1
Format : ebook
Page Count : 263
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Publisher : 47 North
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

THE VINE WITCH was a case of a really strong start and an exciting story that didn’t quite keep hold of that promise all the way through. This was a historical fantasy, set in the wineries of France with a rich history of witches working with the vines and elements to produce good wine. I absolutely loved this idea and the main character Elena was so interesting. Elena remained a strong characterisation throughout, she carried the show.

The story started with a curse, a toad and transformation. Elena’s return to her home was sad and interesting and the two key characters of Grand-Mere and Jean-Paul added to the intrigue. The wider village characters were rich and made me reminiscent of Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

Where my love for the book waned a little was when the story direction changed in the second half. This may be more about my expectations than anything else, but I wanted more time in the winery, how Elena worked, how she and Jean-Paul worked together. I didn’t expect what I got and I longed for more story development in other directions.

The romance that developed was so low-level and unfulfilled in terms of character connection to one another. This story line needed a fuller commitment on the page because I wanted this couple together and I believed in their grudging work relationship, so much that their romantic connection could have been great.

Overall, this was a good read that didn’t quite fulfill what I wanted but it was unique and quick. The second book follows a side character from this story and I believe more of Elena, so I may read on in the series.

THE GIRL AND THE STARS by Mark Lawrence

In the ice, east of the Black Rock, there is a hole into which broken children are thrown.

On Abeth the vastness of the ice holds no room for individuals. Survival together is barely possible. No one survives alone.

To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is not the same.

Yaz is torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her days with, and has to carve out a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of difference and mystery and danger.

Yaz learns that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. She learns that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she learns to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people.

Only when it’s darkest you can see the stars.


Title : The Girl and the Stars
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Book of the Ice #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Harper Voyager
Release Date : April 30, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : DNF/★ ★ 


DNF @55%

What a journey of expectation and difficulty this read has been. I had high hopes with that cover, that synopsis and genre. The story started off incredibly strong, I really liked the world above the ice and felt excited about the storyline ahead. Things changed drastically and the protagonist Yaz, found herself below the ice. Everything following this for the first half of the book gave me Maze runner vibes, just in a different context. I was not thrilled about this, at all.

The world under the ice was confusing, the characters were mostly annoying and the different creatures, magic, taints and demons were rather difficult to fathom. Half the time, I didn’t know who was who. I wanted to continue, I wanted to know more about Yaz and her stars in the ice but it felt like drowning in mud. When you’ve tried and tried but that pushing through gets harder, it’s time to throw the towel in. This didn’t work for me, it wasn’t the story for me or the characters to interest me.

If I was pushed to rate it, I would say 2 stars.

Thank you to Harper Voyager for the early review copy.

HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD by Sarah J. Maas

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.


Title : House of Earth and Blood
Author : Sarah J. Maas
Series : Cresent City #1
Format : library/audio
Page Count : 803
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This wasn’t a flawless book from Maas but my, does she know how to wrap your attention around her little finger. HOEAB was a book that required your attention and commitment to get through the first 25% of info dump and some narrative passages that seemed superfluous. However, from that point on, the characters had embedded themselves on my psyche and I was a willing captive to their stories.

Told from the perspective of half-fae-human Bryce, this was about a journey of death, grief, loss and the fight for justice. It felt like a fantasy-thriller if there is such a genre. Bryce and her foisted upon partner, Hunt Athalar, were the investigators of a two-year-old murder. That murder led them into a complex tale involving species of magical creatures and other worlds.

It was an incredibly twisty tale, some of the twists I saw coming and others I didn’t. I can honestly say that for the final quarter of the book, I was pumping adrenaline, taking little breaks and pulling my hair at the angst. The way the story’s intricacies finally interconnected was very clever and reminded me why Maas is a master storyteller.

The chemistry between the two main characters was a different experience to my knowledge of Maas’ previous writing. This was a slow burn from hate to friendship and then more. The on-page steam was very limited, a surprise to me and maybe others considering this was in adult genre. I would say that genre classification comes from the violence and gore constantly on the page.

Maas has pulled me well and truly into her new world, I enjoyed this suspenseful and thrilling hunt for answers and I cannot wait to read more in this series.

RUTHLESS GODS by Emily A Duncan

Darkness never works alone…

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become. 

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer. 


Title : Ruthless Gods
Author : Emily A Duncan
Series : Something Dark and Holy (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 544
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I feel like I’m in exactly the same place with RUTHLESS GODS as I was with WICKED SAINTS. This series, the content in these books, the twisty story of betrayal and blood and more betrayal, is both worthy of love and full of frustration for me. The worldbuilding, the pantheon of gods, of monsters, of heretics and holy people, it’s all very complex and fascinating, but equally confusing and repetitive.

I feel this one did hold together better than book one, where we know so little and even less is made clear (which is apparently how the author wanted it), whereas things took a turn here that revealed both more and, in some ways, well.. not less but definitely not everything.

Another aspect that I both loved and didn’t was the romantic element(s). One couple I was hugely there for (yes, please, more), and the other? I felt smitten by it at times and over it for others. It’s a very push, pull, and then throw the other off a cliff kind of dynamic and it makes it fascinating and fun and also agonizing (not in a good way) as you struggle to keep up and, also, parse it all. Also like in book one, I’m pretty sure I would die for Serefin, and, I mean, I would at least call 911 for the others. If they asked me to.

So, yes, hardly a glowing review, but I think book three has the potential to knock this out of the park. We’re on stronger footing at the end of this installment — it definitely didn’t feel like book two syndrome — and if this trend continues it’ll be bigger and bloodier and probably even more betrayalier (it’s a word). I’ll read on. I’m two books in, after all; can’t stop me now.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

EMPIRE OF DREAMS by Rae Carson

Even though Red Sparkle Stone is a foundling orphan with an odd name and a veiled past, she’s about to be adopted into the royal family—by Empress Elisa herself. Sixteen-year-old Red can hardly believe her luck. Then, in a stunning political masterstroke, the empress’s greatest rival blocks the adoption, and Red is left with no family and no future.

Grieving and lost, but determined to find her place, Red hatches a daring plan: she will prove herself as a recruit for the world’s most elite fighting force, the legendary Royal Guard—something no woman has done before. But it’s no coincidence that someone wanted her to fail as a princess, someone whose shadowy agenda puts everything she loves at risk. As danger closes in, it will be up to Red and her new friends—and maybe some new enemies—to save the empire. If they can survive recruitment year.


Title : Empire of Dreams
Author : Rae Carson
Series : Girl of Fire and Thorns (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Greenwillow Books
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Set in The Girl of Fire and Thorns series, this book takes place eight (ish?) years after THE BITTER KINGDOM and focuses not only on Red, a mixed race girl the protagonist from the main series had adopted, but also on the tensions in a world post-major conflict between two warring peoples.

I loved being back in this world, getting small glimpses of the much beloved dynamic between one of my favourite couples, and I did enjoy Red.. mostly. This book flashes between past and present perspectives, we see what Red endured before meeting Elisa, and all the trauma she experienced and now knowingly carries and also unknowingly carries, and how she’s coping. She’s not quite welcome as the Empress’ heir, both because of prejudice and conspiracy, and so she finds a different way to prove herself and also discover her true self — all while also challenging so much of the tradition and stereotyping built into this society.

I’ll admit I wasn’t really interested in the flashback POV chapters. Maybe because it felt a little rehashed (we know some of Red’s life pre-on page meeting but obviously not to quite this extent) but also it kept pulling me away from the more exciting training montages and dialogue in the present day where Red was, like, fighting the patriarchy.

I’ve never trained a girl before.”
You’ll find it uncannily similar to training any other person.

That said, I wasn’t always super into the present day stuff, either. There are some big high stakes moments near the end, a lot of which is built up along the way to that point, but things do come to a head pretty quick, and then its all over. I got the happy feels and excitement and joy at the end, don’t get me wrong, but this story somehow felt both a little dragged out and also over too fast. A standalone in an existing universe where we previously had a trilogy.. I mean, that’s tough. But there is an eclectic mix of new faces amongst the familiar, some good banter, and the one thing you can always depend on from this author is a fabulous ensemble cast.

So, I had almost rounded up because bias and nostalgia (infact, after finishing, I had rated this a four with a “but it’s really a three” caveat but as I drifted off to sleep that night.. I knew I shouldn’t have, so, here I am fixing the situation slightly) but ultimately I think where I’ve put it is true to the story itself. But. I loved being back with these characters, seeing some grown up, grown into their own, and others thrive despite the history and tragedies, not to mention traitor’ing (it’s a word), that predate them. But is it perfect? No. But I don’t think most fans will care and, best of all, I hope it inspires those who haven’t yet read The Girl of Fire and Thorns series to pick it up. Because it’s excellent.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

CHOSEN ONES by Veronica Roth – double review!

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended. 


Title : Chosen Ones
Author : Veronica Roth
Series : Chosen Ones (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : sci-fi/dystopian
Publisher : John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★  / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m going to start by saying I like the Chosen One trope. I do. And I also really like the post-Chosen-One-now-what-the-fuck-happens trope. I find the former is done a lot better than the latter (though we haven’t had that many) but this might’ve been the best post-Chosen story I’ve read so far. I think.

There is a lot of really interesting, and quality, content in Roth’s tale. The plot definitely keeps you guessing, too, as while the tone doesn’t really change, the context and angle does. And also, like, the setting? Things went to a strange place around the halfway mark (maybe earlier, can’t remember) and at first I really wasn’t a fan.. and then it clicked. What didn’t quite work for me was the motivation or, I guess, reason for a certain character and/or plot, but the concept of it, the bare bones structure, was pretty great.

I definitely think this is going to be book that either works or doesn’t work for readers. The characters aren’t easy to love (or like) and the plot shifts gears — sideways, upside down, backwards — but there are definitely shining moments in both the telling of the story as well as the processing of the grief and trauma and uncertainty of surviving something so beyond comprehension. It feels very true for a lot of us; we survive life to a certain point and then hit that wall of, “now what?”. The only difference is the average body doesn’t hit that wall after defeating a dark magical being. But there are glimpses of hope, of being known, of being understood, despite it all.

I will say that, for an adult story, I don’t feel the characters read their supposed age (thirty). Early twenties I would’ve believed, definitely. But, honestly, had you redacted the on-page stating of how old they were supposed to be and handed me this book? I would’ve guessed YA.

So, there you have it. Roth’s first adult novel is interesting, creative, and not hard to put down, but not easy, either. But despite it all, not as close to great as I hoped it might be. I have no idea what to expect from book two, particularly as I felt this wrapped really well, but I will pick it up for sure.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

This was a tale of complexity, the creation of a world(s) that really captured my imagination but no way could I have predicted this wild story direction and culmintion. Veronica Roth once again has proven she has a great imagination and ability to commit this to the page.

I do like a chosen one trope but this really was a reimagining of that idea with a washed up, traumatised and arrogant crew. Sloane was the protagonist that was just treading water after her great input in saving the world ten years ago. I really liked how the world unfurled its laws and history through her flashbacks but also her reading of past documents. The magic of that earth was pretty creepy at times, with the fight to save the world having been somewhat gory and violent. I didn’t like many of the other crew apart from Albie and maybe Innes but she was in the background. I liked the second part much better.

When the world and story twisted life got much more exciting and I got more invested in the story. I loved the elements and mysteriousness of the needle, Sloane’s connection to deep dives and Mox. This story really was a case of not knowing who were the good guys and who were the bad guys; my ideas got flipped on their heads.

There is a concentration investment needed for this story, the world building comes in layers and pieces but nevertheless it is intricate and you need your brain switched on. The culmination did not let me down and I am a little unsure where another story will spring from for this series but I am here to read more. On a side note, I can see this making a pretty good film.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier – rereading a favourite!

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift – by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all..


Title : Daughter of the Forest
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 544
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : TorBooks
Release Date : March 14, 2001

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

We’ve talked on this blog before of rereading, and what inspires us to do so, and when we reach for favourites. I remember mentioning how my rereads tend to be done over the holidays, for nostalgia and comfort, but, yikes. This is no holiday, quite the opposite, but definitely a time for comfort and self-care. Even if this book put me through the wringer.

Most people can’t choose a favourite book; and rightly so. With so much choice, so much to love, it’s akin to picking a favourite child (though we all know those exist.. I see you, parents). But if you asked me? I would say DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier. All of the original Sevenwaters books, actually, as it’s really just one long story.

If I were telling this tale, and it were not my own, I would give it a neat, satisfying ending. [..] In such stories, there are no loose ends. There are no unraveled edges and crooked threads. [..] But this was my own story.

There is something so magical about slipping into a favourite, particularly one you haven’t read in some time, and when the story itself is magical? The experience is so much more. This story is deeply moving. It’s a story of family, of loss, of tragedy and violence, healing and love, sacrifice and hope, and magic and wonder. It’s also one of the most perfect (in my opinion, obviously) portrayals of the complexity of dealing with the Fair Folk, who demand much of the mortals they encounter, who make bargains and promises, all in an effort to guide events and people to a desired end. No matter who gets hurt, or how, in the process.

This story isn’t always easy. The road Sorcha walks is treacherous, the task she must complete to reunite her family is unimaginable, and she is young and alone. Until she isn’t. At which point she’s among her enemies, far from home, and still darkness dogs her steps. But it’s her strength, her perseverance, even when faced with more tragedy, with uncertainty, even when tormented by her own doubt and despair, that is truly incredible.

Marillier’s prose is enchanting, resonating with emotion, and gorgeously descriptive. There are characters to love, and characters to hate, and though I’ve read this story countless times (seriously, I couldn’t even guess), I still dreaded certain events, I still wept; everything hit just as hard. And if that isn’t a sign of a great book, I don’t know what is. What made this particular reread even more special was being joined by a friend who experienced it all for the first time.

I have never tried to review this, all my reads predate the blog or my reviewing on GR, and I know I haven’t done this book any justice at all. It’s impossible to express my love for this book because it’s honestly so deeply embedded in my soul. I read this as a young human and it’s been with me, and I’ve relived it, over and over throughout the years, and we are irrevocably entwined. Some books you lose the love for other the years, as your taste or perspective or style as a reader changes. This book, this series, isn’t one of those.

Would I recommend? Absolutely. This story has something for everyone. Particularly if you’re a fan of fantasy, folklore, and retellings. Because this is all of that and more. And if you discover you don’t like it? That’s fine, we just can’t be friends — kidding.

Maybe.