Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao Book Review


Title: Iron Widow
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Publish Date: September 21st, 2021
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Source: Huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy for review!

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn't matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it's to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister's death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Penelope's Review

This book gives some really great insight into Chinese culture and traditions, and the spotlight on China's only female emperor was very cool. That being said, there was a lot I didn't understand while reading this book - I definitely still enjoyed it though! Let's get into the details!

So our main female lead is Zetian, a badass, confident young woman who becomes a concubine-pilot in order to exact revenge for her sister's death. When she survives her first fight, (most girls die due to an inability to handle the mental strain), she is labeled an Iron Widow. It took me some time, but I do understand how the whole piloting system works - the actual semantics of the war itself however, had me scratching my head a few times. I feel like it could have been explained in a bit more detail - I'm still not sure I fully understand spirit metal and how it works in battle, and I had a hard time picturing the Chrysalises and Hunduns. 

With our male leads, Li Shimin and Yizhi, I found a lack of character development - especially on the part of Yizhi. It is hinted that there is more to him than a sweet, innocent boy with a pure heart but this is never explored further and he is presented as such for the rest of the book. With Li Shimin, we do dive into his past and find out why he is the way he is, but he kind of just blurts it all out in one of his first conversations with Zetian. There isn't any lasting mystery or intrigue, we are just told everything we need to know up front. 

In terms of the politics, Zetian is a fierce feminist (given the circumstances, totally understandable) and I did love all of her rebellious, bold statements and fearless actions. My love of her standing up for what she believes in and fighting the status quo is what kept me reading until the end. Also, I have always been curious about the details behind the Chinese tradition of binding feet and this book explained that process in great detail - I honestly found it super educational and really cool (and horrifying) to see how they did things back then. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book, loved learning little tidbits about Chinese culture, and loved the representation! I'm looking forward to reading the next book, but do hope that I will be able to follow along a little better :) 

Rating: 4/5 Devils!

Monday, 20 September 2021

Good Catch by Jennifer Bardsley Book Review


Title: Good Catch
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Publish Date: October 5th, 2021
Publisher: Montlake
Source: Huge thank you to Jennifer and Rockstar Book Tours for providing me with an ARC for review!

A pair of frenemies navigates the shallow depths of a small-town dating scene only to find the romance they need is right in front of them.

Former ballerina Marlo Jonas has all the right moves—except when it comes to men. Her latest boyfriend? A cheater. In the wake of her breakup, her father has a novel idea for her: try dating men for who they are and not how they look. This makes it easy to ignore her hot nemesis, Seattle Times reporter Ben Wexler-Lowrey.

Ben’s take on romance means spending time with interesting women whose personalities might sparkle more than their looks dazzle. But Ben’s mother thinks he can fare better. He’s never tried online dating before, but what could be the harm in putting himself out there?

As Marlo and Ben both suffer through a series of hilariously awkward dates, they’re left feeling empty. Marlo needs someone empathetic enough to soothe her past hurt. Ben needs someone who truly sees him for the man he is.

These enemies love to loathe one another; could that mean Marlo and Ben are foes in love?

Penelope's Review

We are back in Harper's Landing with this second installment to the Harper Landing series! This is definitely a series that can be read out of order - you'll just see characters from the first book pop up a couple of times! 

This time we are following two new characters - Marlo and Ben. Once again, I really enjoy Jennifer's writing style for this book. Her descriptions and world-building are on point and her character interactions are genuine and relatable. I absolutely love small town stories, especially small town romances, so I was excited to read more about the residents of this charming town! Marlo was a sweet, honest girl slowly trying to overcome a past injury and the physical and mental toll that it took on her. Ben was a delightful gentleman - very helpful and down to earth. I thought the two of them made a very cute match! 

While I did love the hilarity of seeing these two on other dates and the ripple effect of disasters that they each caused, I found a few things were sort of left as loose ends. Brittany for example, and her whole fiasco - I would have loved to heat what, if anything, happened to her afterwards. In the end, I was happy with the book and loved the feel-good vibe it brought me. Overall, this was a quick, sweet read and I can't wait to see what happens next in Harper's Landing!

Rating: 4/5 Devils! 


Thursday, 16 September 2021

Cursed Beauty by Stacey O'Neale Book Review


Title: Cursed Beauty
Author: Stacey O'Neale
Publish Date: August 30th, 2021
Publisher: Phoenix Reign Publishing
Source: Huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy!

From USA Today bestselling author Stacey O'Neale comes a standalone YA fantasy retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

The day has come for sixteen-year-old Aurora to receive her witch mark. She should be thrilled. But unlike the rest of her coven, a centuries-old family curse has already decided her fate; the cost of her new power is her life.

After the ceremony, her grandmother offers her hope: Aurora can save herself and prevent her coven from dying by awakening a sleeping prince with the power to break her curse. Unfortunately, she must travel through the forbidden Shadowlands to reach him.

The enchanted forest is filled with magical creatures—friends and foes—including the mysterious son of a powerful wolf pack leader. Can she find the prince in time, and if she succeeds, will he choose to help despite having been placed under the sleeping spell?

Penelope's Review

While I did enjoy aspects of this book, I have to say it wasn't my favorite overall. Love the idea - sleeping beauty but with supernatural creatures and it's the prince asleep instead of a princess... but it missed it's mark a bit in my opinion. 

So I liked Aurora as a character, she seemed relatable and didn't make things all about her even though she was in a terrible situation as the next blood witch. But when she meets the wolf pack leader's son, Sage, there's very little interaction between the two yet all of a sudden they are supposed to be madly in love with each other? I actually swiped back through my kindle because I thought maybe I had missed a chapter or something. I found it very abrupt, and wasn't really invested in the relationship. 

I loved that this was a fairytale re-telling with a supernatural twist (witches, werewolves, vampires), and it was definitely enjoyable - just a bit rushed. Everything was explicitly stated rather than shown, I thought maybe there was going to be a bit more to the Shadowlands, the way it was spoken about at the beginning. But overall, I enjoyed the book for a quick read with a fairytale edge to it. I may give another book by this author a try to see if this was a one-off.

Rating: 3/5 Devils!

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Wicked Darkness by B.L. Callaghan Blog Tour!

Hi everyone! I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the WICKED DARKNESS by B.L. Callaghan Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 About The Book:

Title: WICKED DARKNESS (The Goddess Incarnate #2)

Author: B.L. Callaghan

Pub. Date: August 12, 2020

Publisher: Bianca Callaghan

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 458

Find it:  GoodreadsAmazonKindle, B&NTBD


Sometimes it isn't only villains that crave the darkness.

Sapphira Dawn had been lied to about her identity.

Now the gods agree she should never have been created in the first place.

Her very existence means that the gods aren't playing by the rules, and as they ready their game pieces for the next battle, Sapphira must gather her allies before they - and the entire mortal realm - are wiped from the board.

But someone close to her is hiding a deadly secret.

A secret that will make Sapphira question what she is fighting for.

As her allies vanish one by one, Sapphira spirals deeper into her unstable magic, drawn in by the addictive high and wicked release it offers.

If Sapphira can't control the darkness within, the mortal realm will fall, and everything she knows and loves will be nothing more than ashes and dust.



"Wow! I really loved this story! This isone hundred percent worth the read." - B.B. Palomo, author of the A Department of Vampire extermination series.
"Wicked Darkness is wicked amazing!!! Right off the bat you are thrown into action and it never stops! The fast-pace plot had me falling off my seat at every plot twist. B.L Callaghan knows how to steer the reader in the wrong direction, and I loved that I fell for it every time." - Nicolette Beebe, author of the Mar King series.

"If you enjoy action focused fantasy with a large cast of morally grey characters, you're sure to enjoy the Goddess Incarnate series!" - Goodreads review
"If you thought the first book had a lot of plot twists, this one is going to blow your mind!" - Goodreads review
"I felt like I was in a movie. The constant plot twists kept me on edge and wanting more!" - Goodreads review


About Book 1:

Title: AWAKEN (The Goddess Incarnate #1)

Author: B.L. Callaghan

Pub. Date: August 12, 2020

Publisher: Bianca Callaghan

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 340

Find it:  GoodreadsAmazonKindle, B&NTBD


Sapphira Dawn was told she was the new Goddess Incarnate, the most powerful being on Earth.

At nineteen, she didn’t feel powerful – she felt betrayed and angry.

Suddenly thrust into a world that she knows nothing about, a world where magic and monsters actually exist, Sapphira races to learn all she can about her magic.

And to find her place in this dangerous new world.

Some of the monsters want to use her, the others just want her dead.

But can she gain the knowledge needed to stop an impending war before it spills into the human realm she once called home.


"Sapphira has got to be one the best MC's I have come across of late!... I cannot wait to see where the rest of this story heads!" - Jade Francis, Author of Siren Calls

"If you're wanting to dive into an excellent example of the fantasy world, where the cruel Gods use their power over the world and its inhabitants to their advantage this book is for you. I turned the last page and the word that came to mind was...Excellent. I am looking forwarding to reading the next book in the series. I highly recommend you grab a copy for yourself." - Stephanie B. Whitfield, Author of Hidden in Roll





I was going to die.

I saw the dagger coming too late to get out of the way, watched it spiraling through the air towards me with astonishing speed. 

My eyes were open wide, my mouth was too – like a fish plucked from the sea, suddenly discovering it couldn’t breathe in the open air. It was apparent that shock was not a good look for me; the breath in my chest caught as my muscles tensed, waiting for the impact. Light reflected off the blade, shooting sunbursts through the room on each spin, like a deadly disco ball.

She had actually thrown it. Damn that heartless monster!

The monster in question stood a few short feet from me, grinning wickedly through blood-red lips, another dagger at the ready. Her brown eyes were bright, full of morbid anticipation as they followed the path of the weapon. Long dark hair was tied back in an unyielding braid that ran to her hips, beaded with sweat and blood. Red leather armor protected the majority of her body, a striking contrast to her flawless dark skin.

My shields locked into place a millisecond before the dagger could embed itself in my throat. The blade disintegrated on impact with the solid mass of jade magic, becoming nothing more than dust that rained down at my feet. I conjured knives of my own, willing the sharp glinting steel and silver into existence, small double-edged and deadly. I barely felt the weight of them in my hands before I tossed them towards her.

They didn’t move as fast as hers had, and she quickly maneuvered out of their way, taking cover behind a crumbling stone wall in the center of the room. No surprises there; I was nowhere near as skilled or experienced as she was. Still, I hoped for some luck – a miracle that gave me the upper hand I needed. I kept the barrage of crafted magic coming, even as I stepped toward her, hoping that the sheer number of deadly blades would beat the grinning assassin.

“Is that the best you’ve got?” She called out, mocking laughter in her voice. I could no longer see her, successfully hidden behind the wall, but I could sense her power – the magic like a beacon in the dark. It was mischievous and sinister, a wicked mix of death magic and sharp, experienced intelligence.

I called up more of my own power, jade smoke forming in the air around me, grinning as it coalesced and solidified into an almost exact replica of myself – a trick that I had only learned recently.

Shoulder-length golden blonde hair tied back in a messy bun, bright green eyes, and a curvy figure dressed in black leather armor, both hands gripping blades– the entire image glowing faintly with dancing green light, like an otherworldly aurora.

I sent my magic clone towards the wall and the assassin behind it, strengthening the mirage until the aura light vanished within it. Now it looked exactly like me – no one would be able to tell the difference, not even the woman I had unleashed it upon.

Her daggers flew towards the clone as it rounded the corner, the assassin huffing a victorious laugh as they embedded themselves into the armor protecting the chest. The clone fell backward, landing heavily on the floor, unmoving. The killer followed, standing over it, hands empty now. She was out of weapons at last, just as I had hoped she would be.

I made my move, grounding my feet and lashing out with my power, sending wave after wave of despair into her body – the emotion appearing as a purple so dark it was almost black. It pushed its way in, her body sagging until she could no longer stand. As she fell to her knees beside the clone, I willed the despair to transform, becoming barbed vines that wrapped themselves around her, holding her tight.

I sauntered over, a sword forming in my hand, shields coming down. The woman tilted her head so that she could watch my approach, eyes wary. I held the sword out, the tip of the blade under her chin.

“You’re finished, Assassin Barbie,” I said breathlessly, a smile playing at the corner of my lips. “This is done. Say it.”

Her eyes narrowed, lip pulled back in a silent snarl. I pushed the sword harder, a line of crimson running down her throat, the vines squeezing tighter. “Say it.”

“We’re done.” The woman hissed, a little breathless now too. “Get this thing off me.”

I beamed in triumph, watching her fall to the floor as my magic came back to me, the vines and sword vanishing as quickly as they had appeared. I should have expected it – should have seen her plan – should have seen her reaching for the dagger left behind when the clone vanished. But I was too caught up in my imagined victory, too busy gloating. So fast I barely saw her move; the assassin had me on the floor, her body on top of mine, knees pinning down my arms, and the blade she’d retrieved from the floor at my throat.

“Never trust an enemy.” She hissed in my face, eyes flashing with bloodlust. “They lie.”

Shit. My eyes followed the movement of the blade as it was raised from my throat and into the air, the woman’s grip firm on the handle as she brought it back down again, aiming for my heart. My magic pulsed out, sending a shockwave through the room. The assassin was lifted off me, flung backward, and thrown into the wall. She lay there, stunned, eyes unfocused.

I got to my feet slowly, my body heavy. I made sure to keep my eyes on my assailant, warily waiting for her next attack. She crawled toward her daggers, shaking her head to clear it, her movements sluggish. Blood dripped from a gash in her forehead, creating a red drip trail on the floor as she moved.

I couldn’t let her reach them. Calling up my magic again, I was distressed to feel it beginning to tire – exertion still an issue – even after months of building my strength and stamina. I had to end this fight soon, or I would be helpless. I willed the power within me to hold out a little longer, to keep from vanishing and leaving me defenseless.

 I conjured a bow – feeling smoke swirling through my fingers, using the image in my mind to create it, only for the weapon to solidify in my hand. Arrows were next, sharp and gleaming tips of metal that connected with dark wooden shafts. Black feathers on the ends shimmered green as they moved. They were as beautiful as they were deadly. I nocked one, drawing back the bowstring, and let loose, following the arrow’s progression as best I could as it sped towards the assassin.

She was on her feet now, daggers in hand, eyes narrowed as she, too, took in the flight of the arrow. I readied another one, hands shaking and eyes wide, as the woman simply knocked the bolt out of the air with the tip of her dagger. What the actual hell?

She smirked and started towards me, her steps confident and unhurried. Another arrow shot toward her. Again, an effortless evade. Another and another, over and over, until there were none left. Assassin Barbie was too close for me to conjure up anymore anyway, barely out of arms reach.  I let go of the bow; it vanished before it hit the ground, the magic returning to me slower than it had earlier.

A dagger bounced off my hurriedly made shield, the magic too weak now to disintegrate it. The assassin hissed anyway, vibrations from the contact running up her arm as her hand shot back from the unsuccessful attack.

She eyed my defenses critically, a leer creeping over her lips as she circled me. I turned as she moved, keeping her from my back and making my own observations. She was limping slightly, her right leg injured. “You’re weakened,” she said, brown eyes gleaming. “You'll be defenseless in minutes, and then I can kill you. All I have to do is wait it out."

I fought the urge to roll my eyes, even as my heart pounded in my chest so hard that I was sure she could hear it. I wasn't out of the fight yet, I reminded myself, but I needed time. I needed a distraction to keep her busy while my energy was replenished.

"Tick." My shield faltered as she spoke, and the evil grin widened on my attacker's face. "Tock."

I took a grounding breath, digging deep within myself. I could do this.


Time seemed to slow as I pulled up the last of my magic, wrapping it around myself like a blanket. I pulled what I could from the room around us, too, the shadows dancing like a black flame. Then, what little light there was, was extinguished, throwing the world into suffocating darkness.


I dropped my faltering shield, spinning through the gloom in silence, spinning out of reach of the daggers that arched through the air towards my face.

The shadows enveloped my attacker, growing heavy – heavier with each passing second. Each breath she took thinner than the last, the shadows constricting against her on every breath out. I wasn't going to be caught out again – I couldn't be – there was nothing left for me to use. I couldn't declare victory until it was utterly irrefutable. This woman had to bleed all over the floor, and it had to be now. She was still trying to fight; I could hear her struggling against her bonds, daggers remaining in her hands.

As she fought for air, small gasps permeated the silence, the only way that I could pinpoint her location. The shadows tightened again, and those daggers dropped to the floor as her arms were pinned. I dove for them, sliding the short distance along the floor on my knees, scooping one of the blades up with my left hand, slashing out into the shadows. The knife stuck into something substantial, and my firm grip on the handle, mixed with the speed of my movements, spun me around.

I let go, using the momentum to thrust me to my feet on the opposite side of the woman from where I had started. I heard the other dagger clatter across the floor, having kicked it away from her in my travels. It was in the darkness to my right, close but not close enough. The woman wrapped in shadows screamed, the sound full of pain and fury, dampened only by her lack of full breath.

"Bitch!" She howled. "You fucking piece of shit!"

I searched for the final weapon, falling back to my knees and using my hands to feel around in the dark. My magic sputtered out entirely, the shadows and light returning to their original forms and places.

As the light returned to the room, I spotted the dagger, inches from my splayed hands. I grabbed it, spinning to face the screaming woman. She was unrestricted now and so full of fury.

The woman was free. I had her dagger. And then… I didn't.

It left my hand, flying end over end towards her, moving so quickly that she hardly even noticed it – too intent on pulling the other one from her thigh, hissing and throwing curses at me. It hit her in the chest, dead center. The loud thump as it entered the leather armor amplified in the silence that followed it.

We both froze, looking at it in disbelief. The quiet stretched out as I stared, my mind struggling to comprehend what I was seeing.

"You're dead, Valdis." A laugh bubbled up from my chest and escaped my lips as I spoke. The shock and exhaustion were making me giddy.

"Well, fuck me, Sapphira." She huffed incredulously, eyes alight. "What an epic throw. Who knew you had that in you?"

I giggled again, all of my muscles jumping while my head spun. "I hate to admit that it was a fluke. I doubt I could do it again."

"Yes, well. Don't try and cut my leg off again, either. That fucking hurt."

Slow clapping interrupted us from nearby, a whisper of mocking laughter. We both turned to see a monster standing in the doorway. Black hair matched her eyes, brown leathery, semi-translucent skin, and long claw-like nails on skinny fingers. Murky fog billowed around her skeletal feet—a creature of darkness – of nightmares and fear.

"And so now our savior can fight," the Night Hag stated impassively, black eyes burrowing into my soul. "At last."

"I told you she could learn, Mora," Valdis said, grunting as she yanked the daggers from her body, watching her own blood drip onto the floor. "Just like I did."

I swayed where I stood, the room spinning as they spoke. Now that the fight was over, the adrenaline left me, nothing but fatigue running through my body. My mind struggled to follow the sudden shift – from battle mode back to everything is okay, it was only training.

"Except you practiced on your creatures," Mora hissed, turning her deep gaze on her. "Not on the King's Second."

"All is well, I didn't die, and Sapphira learned a few new tricks. Our King will be pleased."

The Night Hag scoffed, pointing a devilishly sharp nail at her. "Your arrogance will be the death of you, Necromancer."

"Yes, but not today." Valdis shrugged, smiling at Mora sweetly and moving to stand beside me. "It seems that you will be stuck with me for a while yet."

I wasn't sure how Valdis was still standing; her blood was running down her leg from the wound I had inflicted – the cuts on her head and throat too. Yet, she stood firm, as though we hadn't just tried to kill each other – as though it had been nothing at all.

About B.L.:

B.L. Callaghan is an Australian Foster Carer and Early years Educator with over a decade of industry experience.

She runs the Facebook page “More Than A Foster Carer”, where she shares her experience working with the foster system.

B.L. lives in rural New South Wales with her husband, a changing number of children, a dog and some chickens.

As a self proclaimed creative soul, she has had a passion for writing fiction from an early age. When not wrangling chickens, children, or dogs, B.L. loves tagging along on epic quests, and being whisked off on magical adventures.

B.L. Callaghan writes children’s books, as well as YA and NA titles.

Some of her favorite authors include L.K Hamilton, S.J Maas, G.R.R Martin, Lynette Noni, Isobelle Carmody, J.K Rowling, and J.R.R Tolkien.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


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A Dream Within A Dream






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Devouring Books



Rajiv's Reviews



The Reading Devil



Finding Magic In Books



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Jazzy Book Reviews



Books a Plenty Book Reviews






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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

A Magical New York Christmas by Anita Hughes Book Review

Title: A Magical New York Christmas
Author: Anita Hughes 
Publish Date: September 28th, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a n ARC for review!

A magical holiday love story set at the glamorous Plaza Hotel in New York City.

It’s Christmas week when 26-year-old Sabrina Post knocks on the door of the Vanderbilt suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, ready to accept the ghostwriting position for the memoir of Grayson Westcott—a famous art dealer.

A struggling journalist, Sabrina can't believe her luck: a paycheck and six nights in her own suite at the Plaza. She feels like Eloise, the heroine from her favorite children’s books. To make the job even more exciting, Grayson recounts how he worked as a butler at the Plaza sixty years ago for none other than the author of the Eloise books, Kay Thompson.

What promises to be a perfect week is complicated when Sabrina meets Ian Wentworth, a handsome British visitor, at the hotel bar. When Ian assumes Sabrina is another wealthy guest at the hotel, she doesn’t correct him —a decision she doesn’t regret after learning that Ian is a member of the British aristocracy. But, things are not what they seem. The truth is: Ian is not a wealthy lord; he’s actually the personal secretary of Lord Spencer Braxton.

As the week unfolds, will Sabrina and Ian learn the truth about one another?

Filled with the magic that can only be found at the Plaza Hotel during the holidays, and revealing facts about the author of the Eloise books, Anita Hughes's A Magical New York Christmas is both a holiday treat and a heartwarming story that reminds us that falling in love is the greatest miracle of all.

Penelope's Review

This is exactly the kind of book you should pick up if you're looking for a perfect fire-side read - it's for the snow day that has you cozied up with a hot drink and slippers! It will definitely prepare you for snow and the holiday season!

This book has sort of a dual timeline - I find these can be hit or miss but it was absolutely a hit here. And I loved both timelines equally. We got to see Grayson as a young butler at the Plaza working for Kay Thompson. And we also get to see Sabrina working as a journalist and getting to know a handsome British visitor named Ian. I loved both of these characters stories. Sabrina was a sweet, relatable woman with hopes and dreams and I loved watching her come into herself as the story progressed. Grayson was also such a great character - it was so much fun reading about his past and learning how he came to be the man he is today. 

The book had a full circle moment that had me in happy tears! Overall, super sweet book perfect for the holidays! It's sure to get you in the Christmas mood! 

Rating: 4/5 Devils!