Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

Hi All!

Hope your week is going well!

This week I opened up Nocturne by Alyssa Wees, a gift granted to me by the publishers Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine and Del Rey via NetGalley. I know absolutely nothing about ballerina-ing (that’s a word right?), but I loved the summary of this book so I decided to wish for it.

My wish was granted and I received a free copy of the book. The review below is reflective of my honest and voluntary opinions.

Genre:  Fantasy

Publication Date: February 21, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

In this haunting, evocative fantasy set in 1930s Chicago, a talented ballerina finds herself torn between her dreams and her desires when she’s pursued by a secretive patron who may be more than he seems.

“An enchanting and lyrical fever dream bursting with dazzling prose and dark romance, Nocturne enthralled me.”—Erin A. Craig, New York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows

Growing up in Chicago’s Little Sicily in the years following the Great War, Grace Dragotta has always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she first peered through the windows of the Near North Ballet company. So when Grace is orphaned, she chooses the ballet as her home, imagining herself forever ensconced in a transcendent world of light and beauty so different from her poor, immigrant upbringing.

Years later, with the Great Depression in full swing, Grace has become the company’s new prima ballerina—though achieving her long-held dream is not the triumph she once envisioned. Time and familiarity have tarnished that shining vision, and her new position means the loss of her best friend in the world. Then she attracts the attention of the enigmatic Master La Rosa as her personal patron and realizes the world is not as small or constricted as she had come to fear.

Who is her mysterious patron, and what does he want from her? As Grace begins to unlock the Master’s secrets, she discovers that there is beauty in darkness as well as light, finds that true friendship cannot be broken by time or distance, and realizes there may be another way entirely to achieve the transcendence she has always sought.

What I liked about the book:

1. That cover is gorgeous. Something about it is breathtakingly haunting and so avant-garde that I knew I was hooked after seeing it.

2. Overall, I liked the idea behind this story. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this definitely had a mythological feel to it, which I was absolutely crazy for! I love stories within stories and the worldbuilding that goes into fantasy-laden stories is usually so interesting to me. This was no exception.

3. Overall, I did enjoy the lyrical writing style the author employed. There were A LOT of descriptors used on the simplest of things. If done right, I absolutely love this approach. To me, it’s why I love Orwell and Bradbury: taking a simple thought or topic and strangling words out of it until you feel every word connecting you to the story; as though every word breathes fresh energy into you. However, if done wrong, it just feels exhausting.

I see a lot of reviews for this book with this as a critique. To me, I did not mind, and even enjoyed, the writing style. What I did not enjoy was waiting so long to understand where those beautiful words were taking me (see item 1 in the “What could have been better” section).  

What could have been better:

1. What at times was reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera, and Hades and Persephone, somehow managed to feel uneventful. I was waiting and waiting and waiting for something to happen, for some big reveal to come, for the other ballet slipper to drop, and it didn’t really do it for me when it did. Instead of being a large *BANG!* of excitement, the “reveal” was a slow *fizzzzzzzle*. It was pretty easy to figure out early on what it was going to be, but then it wasn’t really satisfactorily done in my opinion.

On top of this, I felt like the main story didn’t really take off until about 55-60% of the way through the book. I swore when we were this deep into the story and she had just started meeting the other MCs, that this was going to be a duology. So, of course, I stopped reading and scoured Goodreads and the author’s website to see when the next book was going to come out. End result: this isn’t a duology, it just wasn’t set up well. With all the fluff in the front of the book and the meat of the book not really happening until the last half, it was hard to become attached to any of the characters or the plot.  

2. My biggest gripe was the character development. Bottom-line, there wasn’t any for 2 of the 3 main characters. For a book praised as a “dark romance” and a “lush gothic romance that will dance you dizzy”, I found exactly zero romance in this thing, which makes sense when you realize the author only expands on one character for the entire book.

Furthermore, I did not feel a connection to the main character, Grace. She wasn’t annoyingly perfect or relatedly flawed; she wasn’t over the top silly or fiery fierce. She just was, which I found a bit boring for a main character that acted as really the sole character for such a large amount of the book.

3. As much as I loved the mythological feel, I didn’t feel like we got enough backstory into it. I would much rather have focused on the deal between the brothers and who they were as characters, than read over and over again how this chick wanted to jump out of a window.

Final Rating: 2.5 stars

The Scarlet Circus by Jane Yolen

Hi All!

I’m back with another short story anthology review!

This lovely ARC of The Scarlet Circus was provided to me by Edelweiss, Tachyon Publications, and Jane Yolen. The thoughts below are reflective of my honest and voluntary opinions.

Let’s see how they rated!

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Fairy Tales

Publication Date: February 14, 2023

Edelweiss Blurb:

This third volume in Jane Yolen’s World Fantasy Award-winning series brings you passionate treasures and delirious transformations. This bewitching assemblage, with an original introduction from Brandon Sanderson, is an ideal read for anyone who appreciates witty, compelling, and classic romantic fantasy.

“The Scarlet Circus is a magical collection of love stories, where love is often an act of courage and intelligence. Jane Yolen has a true storyteller’s voice.”

—Anne Bishop, New York Times bestselling author of the Black Jewels series

A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men.

From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity—beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.

Review:

Like a lot of anthologies, this mix of 11 short stories had various hit and miss moments for me. I found the writing very well done, but I was left disappointed with some of the romance aspects of these works. I feel like a lot of the less romantic stories or stories with no HEAs were situated near the front of the anthology, which made me, a lover of love and HEAs, want to stop reading at several points.

Let’s go story-by-story and give you some high-level analyses.

Sans Soleil – 3 stars

This is the story of a Prince named Sans Soleil, who was said to be so handsome that he rivaled the sun. So handsome in fact that he would die if sunlight ever touched him out of the star’s jealousy towards him. When his young bride does not believe the legend as anything other than poppycock, she intends to force him to see the truth by trapping him in the sunlight (what a great wife…). But “sometimes, what we believe is stronger than what is true.”

This story reminded me of a tale I would have heard as a child. While I didn’t like any of the characters, it did invoke that wonderful fairy tale nostalgia that I appreciated. This was a solid 3 stars for me.  

Dusty Loves – 2 stars

What happens after Juliet dies in Romeo and Juliet, but Romeo continues to live his best fuccboi life?… She haunts him, of course!

While I liked the premise and creativity behind this one, I absolutely hated the execution! This story would have been so much better if the main character, Dusty, was not there at all. Oh, yeah, did I mention there is a playboy who basically is the main character but doesn’t add anything but feelings of ewwwww to the story? Bummer, since this one could have been fantastic.  

Unicorn Tapestry – 3 stars

A woman (the least beautiful and special of her sisters), is able to mix fantasy into reality with her embroidery and get her HEA.

I liked this one enough. It was a good underdog story where she gets the last smile, which is one of my favorite themes to read. Like all others, the writing was great, but I did feel like it was missing a real wow factor.

A Ghost of an Affair – 3.5 stars

A curious jewelry maker, a hardworking silversmith, and a 100-year time difference between them. “Love, though it may take many a circuitous route, somehow manages to get from one end of the map to another. Always.”  

I really liked this one…until the end! That was a TERRIBLE ending! I was fully prepared to give this 4, maybe even 5, stars, and then it got completely ruined. It’s getting 3.5 stars solely because of the ending. Don’t mess around with my HEA!

If you liked The Lake House, About Time, or The Time Traveler’s Wife, you would probably enjoy this like I did until the ending.

Dark Seed, Dark Stone – 4 stars

When the King’s Shield and brother-in-law loses his life, the King’s niece is determined to take over for her father and become the new Shield.

I liked the strategy and the setting that took place in this one. I also liked how Bryony was a strong female character, especially for the time the story took place during. I definitely got Brienne of Tarth vibes from her. What I did not like was the love story was a strategic love only. I hate the marriage of convenience trope, and this was like the love letter to that.

Please note, at this point in reading, I was really frustrated about why this was a collection of “love stories” but all the love sucked.  Good thing we got Dragonfield next ❤

Dragonfield – 5 stars

Outcast woman, convenient hero guy, dragons, science, and a happily ever after. THIS IS WHAT I WANTED FROM THIS COLLECTION! This was phenomenal. The characters were well fleshed out, the history of the dragon and herbs was incredibly well built for a short story, and the characters (neither of which were your typical leading man or lady) were so wonderfully imperfect that you couldn’t help but love them both. The romance in this one was actually romance, which was so nice after all the romantic duds above.  

The Sword and the Stone – 5 stars

An interesting, new take on the legend of King Arthur and The Sword in the Stone. We follow Merlinnus in his last year as he tries to help the existing King, Arthur, obtain and control all of Britain. In order to do this, he must remove an immoveable sword from a stone. Of course, Merlinnus has a little spell he can say at just the right moment to help him with this endeavor. Enter a smart youngling who may not be who you think they are…

I liked this one a lot! I loved the twist at the end and the new take on this old story. It was a very fun short to read and reminded me of watching the movie as a kid. Great nostalgia inducing tale!

The Sea Man – 0 stars – Did Not Finish

I honestly cannot even tell you what this one was about other than some old dude, a young dude, and a merman.

I tried guys, I really tried. This felt like being forced to read Moby Dick in high school. I skimmed that one then, and I didn’t finish this one now.

Memoirs of a Bottle Djinn – 3.5 stars

Aladdin with a better backstory meets I Dream of Jeannie in this story of a man who finds the magic lamp and ultimately wishes for the djinn’s love.

This one took me a good minute to get into, but once I did I really enjoyed it. I liked all the references to Greek philosophy and how she was both beautiful and smart. I also loved the twist at the end and the shift in the narrator’s perspectives.

Peter in Wonderland – 4 stars

Alice takes another trip to Wonderland, but this time with a friend-boy.

I love everything Alice in Wonderland so it was no surprise to me that I loved this simple little story.

The Erotic Faerie: The Footnotes – 0 stars – Did Not Finish

Ummm, so yeah, this is exactly what it sounds like. This consisted of random “footnotes” to a story that “doesn’t exist anymore”. I found this confusing and irritating, and I immediately DNF’d it knowing it was the last story in the batch. Not a great note to end on in my opinion, especially after following two stories that were wonderful.  

Average Rating: 3 stars!

Want to check out what else Jane has worked on? The lady has quite the body of work. Hop on over to her social media accounts using the below:

Goodreads | Instagram | Website

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

Lost and Found (A Lost Boys Novel #1) by Gina L. Maxwell

Genre: Adult, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling/Reimagining

Publication Date: January 22, 2019

Rating: 4 darling stars!

Favorite Quote: “Because in times like this, the last thing I want you to be, is a gentleman.”

NetGalley Blurb:
Not every story that starts with once upon a time ends in happily ever after…

Peter and I were drawn to each other from the very beginning—even when I was just a kid, sneaking out to see him at the rundown orphanage for boys. I thought we’d be forever.

We weren’t.

So, I left our small town with nothing but a map for my future and a shattered heart, and I didn’t look back.

Until now.

See, I’m organizing the fundraiser of the year, and I need Peter, master mechanic, to help me rebuild a classic car for an auction that’ll help hundreds of foster kids.

I was sure I was prepared to see him again. After all, I wasn’t the naïve girl I’d been when his touch made me fly. I could ignore his magnetic pull this time around.

I was wrong.

Because the boy who broke my heart grew into a man who wants a second chance, and our connection is deeper and hotter than ever.

But love wasn’t enough to keep us together once upon a time. Why should I believe in it—and him—now?

Lost and Found, book one in the Lost Boys novels, is a super sexy, lightly angsty, friends-to-lovers and second-chance contemporary romance.

Review:
Another great book by Gina L. Maxwell! Seriously, I think I’m in love with her!!

What I liked about the book:
If you have read any of my reviews, you probably know that I love three things:

1. Fairy-tale retellings/reimaginings. Something about taking the concepts I grew up on and twisting them for my now-adult brain really works for me (let’s not look into the psychology behind that one).

I especially enjoy when something as magical as Peter Pan is worked into an everyday setting, like mechanics and illegal businesses.

2. I love a good dirty, yet sweet romance. In other words, I love the whole “dominate-me-during / cuddle-me-after” scenario, and Mr. Pan delivered! He is without a doubt a total dom, but he still calls her baby.

ALSO, when he asked if he could give Wendy a “real kiss”, when he stated “I used to be a Lost Boy, but the night I met Wendy, I became found”, and when he made them necklaces from their childhood gifts to one another??? STAHP! He is just the sweetest, most adorable badass I’ve read in a while. Like, can we stop with the perfect MMCs, Gina??? You’re creating unrealistic expectations!

3. I love spinoff potentials!!! So glad I got the chance to read this now when I can go scoop up Hooks book next!

…Ahem…Gina…where is my Tink book? I feel that one is going to be

I need Tink and Michael…STAT!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. This is totally a me problem, but I guess I was looking for a bit more maturity in Peter Pan. I know, that’s stupid. But it’s a reimagining…Why did you wait until the last minute to order something knowing this was the biggest event of your woman’s career? Come on, dude, get your sh*t together.

I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley and Gina L. Maxwell in exchange for my honest review. Check it out!

Scarred (Never After, #2) by Emily McIntire

After reading book one, I was totally Hooked on this series!

I’m not going to lie, I was afraid of starting this book for a couple reasons.

  • I thought there was no way it was going to compete with Hooked. Hooked was fantastic and edgy and sultry and just made me scream with delight. I didn’t want this one to be a bummer after Hooked was so good.
  • I am one of the few people (in the world it seems) who didn’t really enjoy The Lion King or Hamlet, or whatever else you want to compare it to. As a child of the nineties, I know this is basically blasphemy, but
Itiswhatitis

However, after tearing through this second book in the series in less than 24 hours, I have fully learned my lesson: never doubt Emily McIntire.

Scarred was beautiful, gritty, and heart-wrenching in so many ways. It is now my favorite in the series so far!

Goodreads blurb:

Once Upon A Time,
there was a king who passed.
He left behind two sons,
one beloved and one outcast.
The older of the two was set to take the throne,
but before he could he had to find a queen to call his own.
The younger one was known to be unruly and unhinged.
The chosen queen was warned to keep far away from him.
Beautiful and cunning, in the light is where she stayed.
But late at night, it was the shadowed lands in which she played.
Mistakes were made and secrets forged;
forgetting duty and her sense.
And while the new king had her hand,
her heart belonged to the scarred prince.

Scarred is a DARK Royal Romance and a complete standalone within The Never After Series (A series of fractured fairy tales inspired by our favorite villains). It is not a retelling or fantasy. It contains subject matter which may be triggering for some. Reader discretion is advised.

What I liked about the book:
1. Similar to Hooked, the references and nods to the original are so good they made me downright giddy! Loved learning who everyone was and how they were the same (or differed wildly!) from their Lion King / Hamlet counterparts.

Iunderstoodthatreference

2. Ugh….I thought I liked Captain Hook, but I was so naïve…Tristan is the man!

A wounded / scarred rebel with bad actions for the right reasons and a heart of gold for his woman. He would literally die for her and I had no doubt of that. Doesn’t hurt that he is sex incarnate.

Heshot

Also, let’s talk about his relationship with Simon (Simon = Simba). He is just the best uncle / friend / step-in-father type this boy could possibly have! And I love the ending!

3. Emily consistently writes powerful females and men who see them as their equals (and love their fierceness)!!! This is so important to me that I want to kneel at Emily’s feet in gratitude!

4. I’m a sucker for a good rebellion/uprising story, and our MCs were definitely rebels.

5. The steam was phenomenal!!!

I'llHaveWhatShe'sHaving

6. SO.MANY.GOOD.LINES!!!!

There may be distress, but I’m no helpless damsel.” – Damn right you’re not sis!

sometimes the only way to enact genuine change is by becoming part of the machine and ripping out the broken pieces yourself”

or this one of similar sentiment

If you want to burn down hell, you must learn to play the devil’s game.” – Basically, I love everything Sara B says and does

“The truth is that I have no friends, because friendships are fickle and often a waste of time.” – I feel seen….

“Sara, you aren’t here to tell us about your preferences. You’re here to be the king’s bride. All you need to do is sit down, look pretty, and let me handle things.

ExcuseMe

“His tone is deep. As if it was made in hell then woven through silk. A gentle caress that singes your senses.” – I mean, how can you NOT fall for that?!?

We never allow ourselves to care about the sheep, little lion.” – Solid advice

I feel out of control. Every single piece of me is raging to grab her, and fuck her, and brand her, and keep her, which is crazy because I don’t even want her.” – Suuuuure you don’t….

What I didn’t like about the book:
1. I don’t care enough about this to mark it down, but homeboy is lightin’ up like the Fourth of July every chapter!!! I have nothing wrong with his “recreational activity”, but I feel like every time we cut to Tristan, dude has to start smoking and it’s detailed each time. Like, I get it, you smoke pot. Let’s focus a little bit more on one oral fixation and a little less on this one.

5 rebellious stars!

Make sure to add the third book in the series Wretched (set to be published April 19) to your TBR!

Check out Emily’s social media at the links below.

Goodreads | Instagram | Emily’s Facebook Group (The McInCult) | Twitter

While you’re at it, let’s be antisocial together!

Goodreads | Instagram | Gmail

Hooked by Emily McIntire

Never did I think I would be uttering these words, but Captain James Hook CAN GET IT! For real though, this book is fantastic. I love dark and twisted fairytale reimaginings, and Emily McIntire definitely delivered on all fronts.

Goodreads blurb:

He wants revenge, but he wants her more.

Once Upon A Time, there was a little boy.
His belly full of laughter, his life full of joy.
Until one day, something changed; stripped his innocence away.
The hole inside making space for the devil to come and play.
His dreams gone forever, he grew up way too fast.
An endless night of crocodiles, and watches made of glass.
He grew into a villain, the taste of vengeance on his tongue.
Craving to make his enemies pay for the misdeeds they had done.
Instead he found a darling girl, and refused to let her go.
For what better way to make the man pay, than to steal his little shadow.

*Hooked is a full-length, complete standalone and the first in The Never After Series: A collection of fractured fairy tales where the villains get the happy ever after. This is a DARK Contemporary romance (not a literal retelling and not fantasy) featuring mature themes and content that may not be suitable for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised.*

Review:

At first, I was slightly confused because we meet Wendy, she has one brother (ok, weren’t there two?), her mother is dead (strange, but ok), and her father is…Peter.
What?AaronPaul
On top of all that, I’m supposed to believe that Hook is the good guy exacting revenge against Peter and Hook is only 5 years older than Wendy? But whatever, I rolled with it.

What I liked about this book:
1. The flow and writing are great. Characters are introduced at a good pace, new information is presented at a good pace, and the prologue is very interesting making you already feel for the “villain”

2. As someone who never got the appeal of the character Peter Pan, I love the twist in this book! For me, this is everything I wanted Peter Pan to be and it never was.

Speaking of twists, there were multiple. Instead of being annoying like I would have thought multiple twists would be, I found myself gasping for breath with each turn of events, much like Wendy if you know what I mean
WigglingEyebrows

3. I love all of the references. From obvious ones like NevAirLands airlines and Peter’s assistant Tina Belle to the name of Hook’s boat, Tiger Lily.

4. As previously mentioned, James/Hook is
Delicious
He is rough around the edges and definitely a bad guy, but at his core he has deep feelings and emotions for those he cares about and he truly sees Wendy as his equal. Would I date this type of person in real life? HELL NO. Does that stop me from swooning as I read of this fictional character. HELL NO!

5. There are some….interesting things in this book as far as the intimate scenes go. Several things that are just not my jam, but at the same time, as I read them, I found myself considering…maybe….oh no, I couldn’t….but maybe? Regardless, Hook knows how to keep a woman and a reader happy.

What I didn’t like about this book:
1. The book sets Hook up to be this man who has an excellent bullsh*t meter, yet he jumps to conclusions when it comes to Wendy’s involvement in her father’s business. Like, what?

2. I wanted more insight into Jon. He seems like a very interesting character, and then THAT TWIST!?!?! Yeah, I wanted more.

3. And as much as I didn’t really like her, I wanted more Tina Belle too. Was there something going on between her and Peter? I guess we’ll never know…..

Loved this one! 4 Stars.