September was a pretty successful reading month! I managed to find some new favourites and I also fell back in love with graphic novels. What is it about graphic novels in the Fall that brings me so much joy! If you aren’t aware, I vlog my wrap up throughout the month so that my thoughts are fresh when I talk about each book, so I am going to write this post in the order in which I read each book.
Fortune favors the bold. Magic favors the liars.
Ren is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house, securing her fortune and her sister’s future.
But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as nightmare magic begins to weave its way through the City of Dreams, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled…with Ren at their heart.
The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a dazzling and darkly magical fantasy adventure by Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing together as M. A. Carrick.
The Mask of Mirrors was a carry over from August and it was also the book for my online book club, The Book Check Out Book Club. This was outside of my comfort zone because I do not read a lot of epic fantasy or books over 600 pages, but I ended up really liking The Mask of Mirrors because I need to know what happens next! I think it is important to know that the first 300 pages are slow and it is a lot of info to take in, which I know can sound daunting, but trust me it is worth pushing through. The second half went by in a flash and I found myself deeply invested. There is a lot of great character work and there was a moment where I actually teared up, which showed me just how attached I was to these characters and their relationships. There are still a lot of questions I need answers to but I have been assured I will be satisfied by the end of the trilogy.
It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.
Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.
If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.
Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.
Can you believe that it took me this long to finally read Half a Soul? Especially when you consider just how much I love cozy fantasy! Half a Soul lived up to all of the incredible hype it has received and it has some of the best banter I have ever read. I actually wish that it was a little bit longer and more slow burn so we would have had even more of the banter! I really loved some of the choices that Olivia Atwater made with the direction of the story and I also adored so many of the side characters. There truly is a lot to love about this book!
A contemporary gothic fairy tale about a small town haunted by the history it can’t quite seem to bury and the canny, clever young woman who finds herself drawn to the house that sits at the crossroads of it all.
Starling House is odd and ugly and fully of secrets, just like its heir. Opal knows better than to mess with haunted houses or brooding men, but it might be a chance to get her brother out of Eden, and it feels dangerously like something she’s never had: a home.
But she isn’t the only one interested in the house, or the horrors and wonders that lie beneath it. If Opal wants a home, she’ll have to fight for it. She’ll have to dig up her family’s dark past and let herself dream of a brighter future. She’ll have to go down, down into Underland, and claw her way back to the light.
Starling House was my first full-length novel from Alix E Harrow, who is an author I have heard mixed things about, and I ended up really loving this. I cannot say I am too surprised because I love small town Gothic horror and I especially love a sentient house. The house in this book had so much personality that I actually wish it got more page time! I thought that there were moments of awkward info dumping but that was easy for me to overlook because so much of this was perfect for me. It is super atmospheric, has a great sister/brother relationship, and there is a slow burn romance that was really sweet.
Laure Mesny is a perfectionist with an axe to grind. Despite being constantly overlooked in the elite and cutthroat world of the Parisian ballet, she will do anything to prove that a Black girl can take center stage. To level the playing field, Laure ventures deep into the depths of the Catacombs and strikes a deal with a pulsating river of blood.
The primordial power Laure gains promises influence and adoration, everything she’s dreamed of and worked toward. With retribution on her mind, she surpasses her bitter and privileged peers, leaving broken bodies behind her on her climb to stardom.
But even as undeniable as she is, Laure is not the only monster around. And her vicious desires make her a perfect target for slaughter. As she descends into madness and the mystifying underworld beneath her, she is faced with the ultimate choice: continue to break herself for scraps of validation or succumb to the darkness that wants her exactly as she is—monstrous heart and all. That is, if the god-killer doesn’t catch her first.
From debut author Jamison Shea comes I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me, a slow-burn horror that lifts a veil on the institutions that profit on exclusion and the toll of giving everything to a world that will never love you back.
It is so hard for me to believe that I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast is Me is Jamison Shea’s debut because it was that good. She is an author who I will be keeping my eye on and I will definitely be reading the sequel, I am the Dark That Answers When You Call, the moment it comes out. I love anything that explores the dark side of ballet (I was a huge fan of Center Stage afterall!) and the fact that this had a paranormal element made it that much better. At the end of the day, this is a villain origin story and I could not help rooting for Laure despite all of the awful things she does. Good for her!
A modern masterpiece, this is a classic Gothic thriller-fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Erin A. Craig, about doomed love, menacing ambition, and the ghosts that haunt us forever.
In a manor by the sea, one sister is still cursed.
Despite dreams of adventures far beyond the Salann shores, seventeen-year-old Verity Thaumas has remained at her family’s estate, Highmoor, with her older sister Camille, while their sisters have scattered across Arcannia.
When their sister Mercy sends word that the Duchess of Bloem—wife of a celebrated botanist—is interested in having Verity paint a portrait of her son, Alexander, Verity jumps at the chance, but Camille won’t allow it. Forced to reveal the secret she’s kept for years, Camille tells Verity the truth one day: Verity is still seeing ghosts, she just doesn’t know it.
Stunned, Verity flees Highmoor that night and—with nowhere else to turn—makes her way to Bloem. At first, she is captivated by the lush, luxurious landscape and is quickly drawn to charming, witty, and impossibly handsome Alexander Laurent. And soon, to her surprise, a romance . . . blossoms.
But it’s not long before Verity is plagued with nightmares, and the darker side of Bloem begins to show through its sickly-sweet façade. . .
House of Roots and Ruin is the sequel to House of Salt and Sorrows, though I do think it can be read as a standalone since it takes place years after book one. I also think that if book one wasn’t your favourite book, it is still worth checking out House of Roots and Ruin. The are so different when it comes to tone and the overall vibe. Book one was super atmospheric and creepy while I wouldn’t say that book two is scary it is more disturbing. I was liking the first half but it wasn’t feeling like a five star book but once we got to the second half it was one twist after another and i got whiplash in the best way possible. This was the definition of a page turner and I ate it up. It actually put me in a reading slump because I could not move on!
Fans of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will love diving into the mysterious and witchy world of award-nominated creator Sweeney Boo. Enchanting full-color illustrations will be sure to charm readers as they explore the halls of Younwity’s Institute of Magic and the forbidden forest that lies beyond.
In the days leading up to Samhain, the veil between the world of the dead and the living is at its thinnest.
One day, everything was exactly as it was supposed to be. And the next, the closest thing Abby ever had to a sister, Noreen, was just… gone.
Distracted by the annual preparations for the Samhain festival, Abby’s classmates are quick to put Noreen’s disappearance aside. The Coven will find her, Abby’s friends say. They have it under control.
But Abby can’t let it go. Soon a search for answers leads her down a rabbit hole that uncovers more secrets than Abby can handle. As mounting evidence steers her toward the off-limits woods that surround the academy, she begins to see that Noreen’s disappearance mysteriously has a lot in common with another girl who went missing all those years ago…
Over My Dead Body was a cute graphic novel that I turned to in order to help me out of my slump and I think that was a good decision. I will say that the set up was very Hogwarts coded but I was able to look passed that and appreciate it for what it is. The illustrations were well done and I liked the characters and their friendships. Each student also has an animal familiar who they are bonded to and that was my favourite part. The mystery was predictable but I don’t think that is why you would pick up this graphic novel in the first place.
A farm-fresh debut graphic novel starring a heroine who is braver than she realizes.
Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. At least with her friend Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.
But when her village of vegetable folk learns that a bloodthirsty vampire has moved into the nearby castle, they all agree that, in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is the obvious choice to confront him. And with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes.
After all, garlic drives away vampires…right?
Over My Dead Body reminded me how much I love graphic novels this time of year and a friend recommended I try Garlic and the Vampire and I am so happy I tried it because this was the cutest thing. If you want to ultimate cozy vibes this Fall, look no further. You can read it in ten minutes and you’ll want to read it over and over. It is one of those graphic novels I can see myself reading every year.
Garlic loves spending time with Witch Agnes, Carrot, and her new friend, the Count, who has proven to be a delightful neighbor to the village of vegetable people rather than a scary vampire. But despite Agnes’s best attempts to home-brew a vegetarian blood substitute for Count, the ingredient she needs most can only be found at the Magic Market, far from the valley.
Before she knows it, with a broomstick in hand, Garlic is nervously preparing for a journey.
But Garlic is experiencing another change too–finger by finger, she appears to be turning human. Witch Agnes assures her that this is normal for her garden magic, but Garlic isn’t so sure that she’s ready for such a big change. After all, changes are scary…and what if she doesn’t want to be human after all?
Of course, I also had to read the sequel to Garlic and the Vampire! Garlic and the Witch was just as adorable as book one and I was smiling the entire time I was reading it because I just love Garlic so much. I am not sure if Bree Paulsen has plans to put out more books in this series but at this point I will read anything she publishes.
Debut author Lisa Springer delivers a spine-tingling contemporary horror that follows a scary-movie buff as she hosts an elaborate Halloween bash on her family’s estate but soon finds the festivities upended when she and her guests are forced to test their survival skills in a deadly party game.
Noelle Layne knows horror. Every trope, every warning sign, every survival tactic. She even leads a successful movie club dedicated to the genre. Thus, who better to throw the ultimate, most exclusive Halloween party on all of Long Island? And with the guest list including the coolest kids in her senior class, her popularity is bound to spike. Hopefully, enough to warrant an expansion into podcasting. Plus, the fact that attractive, singer-songwriter Archer Mitchell is coming is honestly the candy corn on top. Nothing is going to kill her party vibes.
Except…maybe the low-budget It clown she hires to lead a classic round of tag. He’s supposed to be terrifying, though in a comforting, nostalgic way. Instead, the guy is giving major creeps. But maybe Noelle’s just that good at hosting? Her confidence is immediately rocked when the night’s entertainment axes one of her guests. And he’s not done yet. If an evil, murderous clown thinks life is a game, then Noelle is ready to play. She’s been waiting a long time to prove that she’s a Final Girl.
I am a sucker for a YA slasher but I find them hard to find, so you will see me often recommending There’s No Way I’d Die First from now on when this topic comes up! It was campy and a little predictable and silly but it was a page turner and everything I have come to expect and love about this subgenre. The romance subplot was distracting for me but I understood why it was included. It adds to the campiness and gives you something to root for. The slashing was fun and this book certainly did not help with my fear of clowns!
Ginger. Honey. Cinnamon. Flour. A drop of blood to bind its power.
1650: The Black Forest, Wurttemberg.
Fifteen years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Their mother and stepmother are long dead, Hans is deeply in debt from gambling, and the countryside lies in ruin, its people recovering in the aftermath of a brutal war. Greta has a secret, the witch’s grimoire, secreted away and whispering in her ear, and the recipe inside that makes the most sinfully delicious – and addictive – gingerbread.
As long as she can bake, Greta can keep her small family afloat. But in a village full of superstition, Greta and her intoxicating gingerbread is a source of ever-growing suspicion and vicious gossip.
And now, dark magic is returning to the woods and Greta’s own powers – magic she is still trying to understand – may be the only thing that can save her … If it doesn’t kill her first.
It is no secret that I love a fairytale retelling, but I cannot say I have ever read a Hansel and Gretel one! I loved that After the Forest wasn’t a direct retelling of the events of the original story rather it was an imagining of what would happen to these characters years later. t was next level atmospheric and went in a direction I was not expecting. The first half is slow and a lot of set up but all the groundwork was necessary and pays off!
Think you know what it’s like being a baller’s girl? You don’t. My fairy tale is upside down. A happily never after. I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud. I was a fool, and his love – fool’s gold.
Now there’s a new player in the game, August West. One of the NBA’s brightest stars. Fine. Forbidden. He wants me. I want him. But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won’t let me go.
*Contains domestic/sexual abuse not involving the hero. Read reviews for further guidance.
If you asked me to tell you my favourite author I discovered this year, I might tell you it is Kennedy Ryan. I trust her to handle difficult topics in a way that feels honest and respectful. Do not take the content warnings for Long Shot lightly. There is domestic abuse on page and it is quite graphic and harrowing. It is a book I had to take pauses with and I still haven’t rated it on Goodreads because my feelings about it are complicated. I think a lot of women will feel seen by the main character, Iris, but the hero, August, just is not my kind of love interest. I am more of a cinnamon roll kind of person and he was a little possessive and said some things that didn’t quite sit right with me. I want him to grow on me and he just didn’t. Iris was fantastic though and I love Kennedy Ryan’s writing!
All Reyna and Kianthe want is to open a bookshop that serves tea. Worn wooden floors, plants on every table, firelight drifting between the rafters… all complemented by love and good company. Thing is, Reyna works as one of the Queen’s private guards, and Kianthe is the most powerful mage in existence. Leaving their lives isn’t so easy.
But after an assassin takes Reyna hostage, she decides she’s thoroughly done risking her life for a self-centered queen. Meanwhile, Kianthe has been waiting for a chance to flee responsibility–all the better that her girlfriend is on board. Together, they settle in Tawney, a town that boasts more dragons than people, and open the shop of their dreams.
What follows is a cozy tale of mishaps, mysteries, and a murderous queen throwing the realm’s biggest temper tantrum. In a story brimming with hurt/comfort and quiet fireside conversations, these two women will discover just what they mean to each other… and the world.
It took me all month to read Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea and I can’t quite put my finger on why. In theory, I should have loved this cozy fantasy but I struggled a little with it. I think the stakes may have been too high for a cozy. There were some sweet moments but I was never able to fully immerse myself into the coziness of it all because I knew this big conflict was coming. I also thought that the romance was cute but a little surface level and I prefered one perspective of the other. That said, there were things I liked about it, especially the side characters, and the ending makes me curious to pick up the sequel.
The ghost of a recently deceased chocolatier believes he was murdered, and it’s up to young witch Brynn Warren to use her magical gifts and old-fashioned sleuthing skills to find out how he really met his bitter end in this enchanting new Evenfall Witches B&B Mystery.
After spending months unable to use her powers, Brynn Warren is once again using her gift and working at her family’s bed-and-breakfast. Her heart is full, and although one of her aunts wonders if it might be a little more full with a bit of romance in her life, Brynn is certain that finding love again is not in her future. In fact, she can’t imagine anyone being more certain of anything…except for maybe, the recently deceased Mortimer Sweete. He’s certain he’s been murdered, and he wants Brynn’s help to bring his killer to justice.
Mort is positive he knows who killed him: his business partner’s wife, Cookie, who had been trying to get them to sell the candy shop for months. But Brynn doesn’t share his conviction. After all, the coroner ruled his death natural causes, and Mort did have health problems in life. But with Cookie putting up a For Sale sign for the shop already, Brynn knows she can’t just let it go.
Trying to solve a might-be murder while attempting to stop her aunt from meddling in her personal life seems like a recipe for disaster. If Brynn wants to bring Mort’s spirit peace, she’ll have to rely on all her skills–both magical and mundane–to uncover the truth.
When the Crow’s Away is the second book in the Evenfall Witches B&B Mystery series and it was just as good as the first book! While in a lot of ways it feels like your traditional cozy mystery, I also think it does some things that subverts the typical tropes. For one thing, there is no romance and the main character is also a witch who can see the dead. So she talks to the ghosts of those who die in her community and in this case helps to solve a murder. It was the perfect way to end my month! The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I went to the author’s Instagram to see if there was any news about the third book. I was sad to see that Berkley had dropped the series because they are not doing these mass market paperback mysteries anymore. That said, it looks like there is potential for another publisher to pick it up. I am really hoping that happens!