ARC REVIEW: The Electric Heir – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Electric Heir
(Feverwake #2)

Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: March 17th 2020
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: January 10th 2020
Pages: 479

“Just because something is a stereotype doesn’t make it true.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Skyscape in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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After enjoying the first book of this duology last year, I was excited to meet up with the main characters again in The Electric Heir. But before we continue with my rambles, can we just take a second to admire this absolutely gorgeous cover? Both Feverwake covers are simply stunning and most definitely fit this story as well, as it can be seen as a direct reference to the magical powers so fundamental to this story. Cover love aside, there are quite a few other elements that made this duology work for me.

The first thing that stands out in the Feverwake books is the dystopian setting and worldbuilding in general. While not entirely original, the dystopian world where a magical virus ravages the world, killing most and leaving the survivors with supernatural powers, is without doubt intriguing. While roughly based on actual US states and cities by name, the story has an obvious dystopian feel both because the country and government as we know it is long gone and the story is actually set in the future (2123 to be exact). The worldbuilding itself isn’t all that extensive, but solid enough to give the story the right backdrop.

One of the things I liked most about both books was the magic and the fact that there was a wide range of different supernatural powers as well as level of strength after surviving the virus. It was interesting to see the different characters develop their power over time as well as seeing the power change them… And as the blurb already states, the sudden absence of that power too. Magic is without doubt essential to the plot and definitely spiced up this story! As for the plot itself… It was interesting to see the new direction this story took. Lehrer is clearly the supervillian of this story and the main goal is to defeat him before things really spin out of control. I do admit that some parts of the plot were quite cliche and the pace can be considerably slow in points. Especially the second made the story drag in certain parts, but overall curiosity won out as I wanted to know how it would all end.

There are a lot of trigger warnings involved when it comes to The Electric Heir, including genocide, abuse, rape, mental health, suicide and addiction (full list available on the author’s website). There are a lot of deeper meanings to be uncovered while reading this duology and some parts even give off a political vibe, but I personally thought this only gave the story a little something extra. There are quite a lot of heavy elements included in The Electric Heir and if you are looking for a balanced and happy story this would definitely be the wrong place to look for it. But life isn’t all about happy endings and it made this story feel a lot more realistic because of it. I personally found the ending itself of The Electric Heir a bit abrupt, but I guess it does give you closure and all in all it’s a well rounded duology that wrapped things up nicely. If you are looking for an entertaining YA dystopia that isn’t afraid to go dark, love a good LGBT romance and don’t mind a dose of teen angst and a slower pace, this Feverwake duology is definitely for you.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #148 – Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet & What We Saw

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two backlist titles I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and both turned out to be excellent reads. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford was both hardbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, and while What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler is without doubt a darker read, the heavy elements including rape and victim shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed.


Title: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: January 27th 2009
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Finished reading: February 3rd 2020
Pages: 396

“The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.”


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I confess I have been meaning to read Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet for years now, and last year I thought getting a physical copy would help making me finally read it. It still took me way longer than expected, but I finally did! I think it’s probably known by now that I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction and this story is able to give us an original angle. Set in Seattle during the war, the focus is on the Chinese and Japanese community and the threats the Japanese community receives as a direct consequence of Japan’s role in WWII. Main characters Henry and Keiko are able to describe this inner conflict, the racism and the consequences for the Japanese community perfectly. Switching between 1942-1945 and 1986 and between young and old Henry, we slowly learn more about the events that started and blossomed the friendship between Henry and Keiko as well as the more serious events involving the Japanese community as a whole. On top of that we have a wonderful extra element in the form of jazz music and Sheldon, who was such a lovely character and he definitely added a little something extra to the story as well as both him and his music providing a red thread to weave the past and present together. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet is a beautifully written, poignant and sometimes heartbreaking read, but not without a note of hope… And it is able to describe the race problematics and injustice for all those innocent Japanese families perfectly. I’m positive any historical fiction fan will have an excellent time reading this wonderful story about Henry and Keiko!


Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Finished reading: February 4th 2020
Pages: 336

“I wonder which is worse: the fear of the unknown? Or knowing for sure that something terrible is true?”


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I’ve been wanting to read What We Saw for a while now, and I’m definitely glad my TBR jar thought it was time to finally pick it up. I already knew this wasn’t going to be an easy read with the rape and victim blaming topic, and it is without doubt trigger warning worthy… That said, I thought the author did an excellent job portraying the whole situation as well as shining an all important light on the topic. Sadly the events as described What We Saw are all too real and sadly rape victims like Stacey become victims all over again when nobody believes their story and people simply say ‘she had it coming’ or ‘she asked for it with the way she dressed and by being wasted’ without knowing the facts… It was interesting to see the whole story from Kate’s POV as she wasn’t directly involved or too close to the victim. Instead, we see the whole situation as an ‘outsider’ wanting to uncover the truth and not accept what everybody wants or finds it easy to believe as the truth… And showing in the process how hard it can be to go against the popular kids and just how far victim blaming can go. What We Saw is definitely a darker read, but the heavy elements including rape and victime blaming/shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed. If you can stomach it, it makes for a very interesting read!


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ARC REVIEW: Keep You Close – by Karen Cleveland

Title: Keep You Close
Author: Karen Cleveland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 28th 2019
Publisher: Random House UK
Finished reading: January 28th 2020
Pages: 352

“It was the idea of the law that I loved. Rules that everyone followed. Consequences for breaking them. The law was black-and-white. It was fair.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Random House UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have heard so many wonderful things about Karen Cleveland‘s debut Need To Know and I have been curious to try out her books. As soon as I read the blurb of Keep You Close, I was immediately intrigued and just couldn’t resist trying this story first. I thought I was going to be in for an intense and action-packed ride, and I have been looking forward to read a proper action thriller with possible espionage/conspiracy plot elements again as it has been a while. I kind of wish I sticked with just trying her debut now instead, because I have to be honest here and say that I was seriously underwhelmed by Keep You Close. I’ll try to explain below why…

I’m still not sure if it was just me, or actually the book, but the fact is that Keep You Close and me definitely didn’t get along. I normally like action-packed stories and I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy plot, so this story should have been right up my alley… Instead, I was left with feelings of frustration and lack of interest for the duration of this book. It’s hard putting my finger exactly on why I had such an averse reaction to this story, but there were definitely a few elements I had issues with. Because it wasn’t just a lack of connection to and interest for the story… There were quite a few elements that just didn’t work for me.

The first thing I can mention is the plot and general structure of the plot. I felt that both the plot, structure and also the flashbacks were simply all over the place. POV switches and flashbacks are kind of dropped on you as you are trying to follow what FBI agent Stephanie Maddox is up to; this is highly distracting, makes the plot feel chaotic and slowed down the pace. Instead of adding the tension and suspense I guess was the intention of using those techniques, especially those POV switches only distracted from the plot itself. Talking about the plot, I also didn’t think both the plot and the plot twists were credible at all and mostly way over the top. I get the whole conspiracy plot and the complicated situation Steph finds herself in, but this mostly seemed like a cliche and caricature way of describing it all, with over the top Hollywood spy movie scenes and twists. The ending left way too many questions unanswered and wasn’t satisfying at all either… I’m not sure if this book just wasn’t for me despite my love for conspiracy plots, but either way Keep You Close was definitely a miss for me.

As for the writing: I can’t say that I was a fan. While I can’t deny that it was a fast read despite the pace slowing down in places (especially during those flashbacks and sudden POV switches), I can’t say I was enjoying myself while reading it. This is probably a personal reaction to her writing style though, as most people seem to love her writing (or at least those reviews I read about her debut). I guess it’s unpopular opinion review time again? Anyway, that was not all. The characters likewise ended up letting me down. I felt that they were underdeveloped and described mostly using cliches; flat and one-dimentional characters I had a hard time connecting to. Steph is the typical ‘strong female main character’ with a messed up past but fierce at her work. She really isn’t being developed all that beyond that, and that is truly a shame. Likewise, the other characters in play are not really developed beyond basic information and cliches either, which makes it hard to connect to them. The focus is instead on the over the top and not credible at all plot, which I clearly wasn’t a fan of either.

I guess my instincts are not always right… I really thought I was going to love this story, especially since I love my conspiracy plots and action-packed thrillers, but Keep You Close was most definitely not my cup of tea. Unpopular opinion or not, I guess we can’t like them all, can we?


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YVO’S SHORTIES #143 – Like This For Ever & Things You Save In A Fire

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I really enjoyed. The third Lacey Flint book Like This For Ever was slightly different than the previous books as Lacey is not that present, but it is without doubt one that ends with a bang. And I loved my time with Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center! She’s definitely on my short list of authors that can make me actually enjoy romance.


Title: Like This For Ever
(Lacey Flint #3)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 11th 2013
Publisher: Bantam Press
Finished reading: January 7th 2020
Pages: 400

“The mask that was Lacey Flint, the mask that her true self hid behind, the mask that could never be allowed to slip again. “


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It took me longer than expected, but I finally came around reading my latest TBR jar pick… It has been interesting to meet up with Lacey Flint again and to see how past events affected her. The story is told through multiple POVs, including Lacey, Dana and Barney. Lacey isn’t as active in this book as she is not currently on duty after everything that happened previously, but somehow she ends up being involved anyway… And Barney’s POV is particularly interesting as we not often have a kid as one of the leading characters. Dana represents the detective team that includes well known Mark Joesbury, currently working on the case where young boys go missing only to turn up dead days later with their throats slashed. Who is behind these killings and why are the murders so atypical? I fully thought I had the whole plot figured out, and I was even starting to feel disappointed, only for the plot twist granades to be thrown at me from an angle I definitely didn’t see coming… Those final developments left me mostly flabbergasted and with a fully reinstated positive opinion about this book. I love it when a story manages to mislead me! This is also one of those books you will finish in record time, and I literally finished it in less than a day. Lacey comes over as more than a bit unhinged in this sequel, but it has definitely made me curious about what will happen with her in the final book. I’m hoping to read it soon! Trigger warnings are in place for self harm and suicide among other things.


Title: Things You Save In A Fire
Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 13th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 8th 2020
Pages: 320

“That’s how life is. Things happen. Lives get broken. Some people never can put themselves back together.”


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I really enjoyed How To Walk Away last year and I have been meaning to read this one ever since…I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so sooner, because I loved Things You Save In A Fire even more. I know I’m not really one of the biggest romance fans around, but I do love a change of genre every once in a while and there are a select few romance authors that can make me actually enjoy the genre. I have now confirmed Katherine Center is one of them. Heartwarming, poignant, honest, brutal and sometimes even shocking: Things You Save In A Fire will take you on a rollercoaster ride filled with emotions. Heavy topics including rape, cancer, death, gender discrimination and addiction are balanced with lighter moments and just the right dose of banter and romance. You will find yourself rooting for both Cassie and Owen (aka Rookie) before you know it, and I loved that this story gave us more insight of what is really going on inside a fire station. Firefighters are the heart and soul of this story and I really appreciated how the author not only described the inner workings of everything involving firefighters but also made it fundamental to the plot. The deeper meaning of the need for forgiveness ran throughout the whole story and will apply on multiple levels… It was fascinating to see the different characters evolve and grow over time, and I can see why this book has received so much love. I’m definitely part of this group now! Fans of the genre should consider Things You Save In A Fire a powerful and heartwarming as well as heartbreaking must-read.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Home – by Sarah Stovell #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Home Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was blown away by Sarah Stovell‘s first book Exquisite last year and I have been looking forward to a new story ever since… And there is no doubt that The Home has only reconfirmed my love for her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Home
Author: Sarah Stovell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 28th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 14th 2020
Pages: 276

“We were fragile, too. But we weren’t fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Exquisite was simply exquisite last year, so I’ve been looking forward to her newest story ever since. It’s easy to say that my expectations were extremely high, and I was honestly a bit afraid it wouldn’t actually live up to expectations… But I shouldn’t have worried. My mind was left reeling and my heart was smashed into a million pieces and left in a broken heap of mess on the floor… Heartrending, raw, emotional and dark: this is a story that will get under your skin and will make your soul ache for those two poor girls! Oh yes, make sure to prepare yourself for a few hours of very intense reading. So, why did the story work so well for me?

As you might have gathered from my first thoughts, this story did excellent job provoking some very strong emotions; key in this were both the characters, plot development and the writing of course. Let’s take a further look at the plot and its structure first… The story is divided into five parts and uses multiple POVs to tell us the tragic story of two troubled young girls: Hope and Annie. We learn about their terrible and shocking past, the residence where they first met and lived together as well as the events that happened after that dreadful night that ended the life of one of the girls… Not in chronological order, but rather a mix of past and present which slowly gives us more insight in the lives of girls. The full picture is being slowly build up brick by brick, until the full horrifying dimension and consequences of their difficult lives are ultimately revealed.

There are a lot of dark and shocking elements included in The Home, and this story is definitely not for the weak hearted. Oh no, this is not a happy story and reading about the details of the lives of both girls has been horrific to say the least. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but heavy topics such as (child) abuse, child prostitution, teen pregnancy, addiction, rape, murder and mental illness play an all important role in the plot… Once again, it is simply dreadful to think just how tough of a start on life these girls had, and it truly shows their resilience that they even got this far. The darker elements also mean trigger warnings are in place, but each element is developed expertly and respectfully and helps shine light on just how hard and essentially hopeless it can be for kids to fight the terrible hand in life they have been given.

Let’s talk about the characters… The main focus in The Home is on Annie and Hope of course, and to say both girls who have had a very rough life so far is an understatement. It’s hard to discuss the characters in detail without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say that their past and secrets will have some very shocking surprises in store and even though they might not be exactly likeable, your heart will ache for them anyway as you see just how much they suffered and still suffer. Other characters, including Lara, Helen and Ace are less present, but each plays its own role and it has been interesting to discover where each character fits in the story. Especially Ace and both mothers made my blood boil, but a story like this needs its villians for it to be realistic… And that was most definitely achieved here.

The writing is once again simply exquisite. The different POVs, the layout of the plot, the thoughts of what is basically a ‘ghost’, a separate ‘story’ about Annie’s past… Different techniques are used to put together a complex and uniquely crafted story that will mostly definitely blow your socks off. Along with an emotional rollercoaster, and with lighter moments (including the relationship between the two girls) balancing all the dark and disturbing elements of this story, you will also find yourself on a journey looking for the truth behind the death of a young girl. Twists and turns will set you on the wrong track, and feelings of doubt, rage and deep deep sympathy for the girls will make it feel as if there were an emotional tornado inside your heart. Only in the best possible way of course!

There is so much to love in The Home and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It’s not an easy read, but it’s beautifully rendered and simply absolutely spot on when it comes to execution. If you are looking for an unique thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and ugly, you have just found yourself a new read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home
Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth
hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in
Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in
Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller,
Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.


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ARC REVIEW: Big Lies In A Small Town – by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 5th 2020
Pages: 400

“I stared at the signature a while longer, wondering how a life that had started with so much promise could now be shrouded in such mystery.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve heard so many great things about Diane Chamberlain‘s stories over the years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up one of her titles. I must have more than one title waiting on my kindle, but somehow other books always got in the way… That’s why I thought having an ARC of her newest title, and therefore a deadline, would be the perfect little push I needed to finally remedy this. The fact that the blurb of Big Lies In A Small Town sounds absolutely fascinating definitely helped that decision… Now that I’ve had the chance to finally try her work, I will definitely come back for more soon!

What made Big Lies In A Small Town so successful for me? There were quite a few factors, but let’s start with the basics of the plot. The story is told with the help of a dual timeline and two POVs, something that can go either way for me as it is very hard to get the balance between past and present just right. I think Diane Chamberlain hit the nail on the head with this story though. I felt both Morgan in the present and Anna in the past were equally important, equally well developed and equally crucial to the plot. The dual timeline structure turned this story into a complex, rich and very much satisfying historical fiction read… The POV switches only adding to the suspense and the mystery around Anna and the mural instead of distracting you.

There are a lot of different elements in play in both past and present POVs. We have Morgan with elements including DUI, prison, alcoholism, feelings of guilt, art restoration work, family and even romance. Then we have Anna with elements including racism and the South, gender discrimination, abuse, rape, family, mental health, crime and art of course. That seems to be a lot to have on just one plate, but Diane Chamberlain somehow makes it work and the result is an abundant and lavish story that also has more than one hidden deeper meaning.

It was fascinating to learn that Big Lies In A Small Town was actually based on real events and that the small town Edenton, North Carolina, does actually exist… And so did Anna Dale. It shows that a lot of research went into making this story feel authentic, and the details and descriptions really took the story to the next level. Racism and related problems in the 1940 South play a very important role in this story, and I thought it was described realistically. Likewise, we have Morgan in the present with a different set of problems, which are likewise realistically described. This story proves just how important is to get the research right before starting a story based on true events!

As for the characters… While Morgan and Anna weren’t my favorite characters of their corresponding POVs, I can’t deny that their development in general is very well done and they both intrigued me. Favorites would probably be Oliver and Jesse, but each character put his or her own stamp on the story and they all played a role in representing the many different elements of Big Lies In A Small Town. The pace of this story might be a tad slow, as there are a lot of descriptions and their is a lot of focus on the characters as a whole. But there is also plenty of suspense, and the mystery around Anna and the strange elements on the mural will keep you on your toes as you try to discover the truth.

Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #138 – The Family & A Curse So Dark And Lonely

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 releases belonging to two completely different genres… But both turned out to be winners. I already knew I was going to enjoy The Family, as I love everything Louise Jensen writes, and my instincts were absolutely right! And I had some doubts about A Curse So Dark And Lonely, but I ended up enjoying it a lot better than I hoped I would.


Title: The Family
Author: Louise Jensen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 3rd 2019 
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: November 30th 2019
Pages: 383

“Family should stick together. Protect each other. Instead, I chose to come here.

This is all my fault.”


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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of anything Louise Jensen writes, so I guess you can imagine how sad I was when I discovered I couldn’t request an ARC this time around… I preordered a finished copy instead, and I’ve been waiting impatiently to read it ever since my copy arrived. I can now guarantee you: Louise Jensen has done it again. I started reading The Family late on a Friday night and after only a couple of pages I decided to stop before I couldn’t stop anymore… Because I already knew I was going to want to keep reading. And that is what I did the next day: I cleared my schedule, sat down and kept turning those pages until I reached the end. The Family is definitely one of those psychological thrillers you will want to read in one sitting! And between the plot, writing, character development, secrets and twists, you will find it a very easy job to do just so. The story is told using different POVs, sometimes staying with the same character during various chapters and sometimes switching rapidly between chapters and characters. These everchanging dynamics add to the overall suspense of the story and definitely gives The Family a little something extra. The plot itself is fascinating as well. The cult like feel of the Oak Leaf Farm and its inhabitants, the vulnerability of Laura and her daughter, the secrets and twists that keep you guessing… And on top of that, the plot development is simply spot on and truly enhanced the reading experience for me. The main characters themselves are without doubt interesting as well. Flawed, well developed and realistic, they form the bricks this story stands on and they help turning The Family into the psychological thriller masterpiece it is. Fans of the genre are missing out if they haven’t read The Family or her other titles yet!


Title: A Curse So Dark And Lonely
(Cursebreakers #1)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Finished reading: December 1st 2019
Pages: 496

“We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”


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There has been quite some hype around A Curse So Dark And Lonely this year, and you all know how hyped books and me tend to get along… I’ve been avoiding this first book of a new series by Brigid Kemmerer to be honest, but I just couldn’t resist any longer when I was in the mood for a little something different. I haven’t read nearly enough YA high fantasy this year, and it turns out I was long overdue for a dose of the genre. I ended up enjoying A Curse So Dark And Lonely so much more than I hoped I would! While it’s true that I’m not a big fan of Rhen, I LOVED Grey’s character and Harper was a solid lead as well. The details involving Emberfall and its curse are without doubt intriguing and well developed too. It was interesting to see fantasy and the real world collide and there was quite a some action involved as well. I also appreciated that the romance wasn’t omni-present in this first book. Instead, it’s mostly slowburn romance with only a hint at a possible love triangle… And I just loved the romance between Jack and Noah! A Curse So Dark And Lonely definitely ends with a cliffhanger though, so I’m happy the wait for the sequel won’t be too long. I do hope we’ll see more of Grey in the second book, or else I would probably end up quite disappointed…


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