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Adult, Review / October 25, 2016
Den of Wolves by Juliet MarillierDen of Wolves
Publisher: Roc
Date: November 2016
448 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
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Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine...

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone...

Den of Wolves is the final book in the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy and happily I also think it’s the best.

This review won’t contain any major spoilers for the earlier two books as each is written in a rather self contained way. That said, if you haven’t read this series, you do want to start with book one, Dreamer’s Pool, as these are not stand alone novels. If you haven’t read anything by Juliet Marillier (gasp!) then I would suggest starting with her Sevenwaters trilogy. I still think it’s the best. However there are so many things I love about this one, most of which comes down to Blackthorn and Grim themselves.

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By: Diane
Review, Young Adult / October 4, 2016
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Date: 09/2016
546 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

“They don’t know who we are. Not really. They don’t know what we’ve done, what we’ve managed together.” Kaz rapped his cane on the ground. “So let’s go show them they picked the wrong damn fight.”

Six of Crows was one of my favorite books of 2015 and I was a little nervous going into Crooked Kingdom. I needn’t have worried about the quality of the story, the plot was fast paced with frequently shifting sources of tension and danger. Kaz and company feel a little less ahead of the game than last time. Fighting for more personal reasons than money, and doing so against adversaries who know they are coming, plenty of ugly surprises are in store. This wasn’t like taking the Ice Court by surprise; coming up against a very-prepared Van Eck and Pekka Rollins, the gang frequently struggled and had to re-plot in their quest for revenge and redemption. I kept turning the pages wondering how Kaz and team would manage to achieve everything this story has been set up for. From beginning to end the plot flows masterfully with only small breathers before the next big disaster hits.

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By: Diane
Adult, Review / August 30, 2016
Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Tor
Date: 19/05/2015
438 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This is a spruced-up version of a review I wrote on my old blog last year for Uprooted. This book instantly became an all-time favorite of mine and even won the Nebula Award last spring!

Uprooted was scary, fun, and even at times romantic. It’s similar to Patricia McKillip’s novels in that it has a pastoral fairy tale feel, but is longer, with a more complex plot.

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By: Diane
Adult, Review / August 16, 2016
His Royal Secret Duology by Lilah PaceHis Royal Secret
Date: July 19th, 2016
185 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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James, the handsome, cosmopolitan Prince of Wales, is used to being in the public eye. But he's keeping a king-sized secret...James, next in line for the throne, is gay.

He’s been able to hide his sexual orientation with the help of his best friend and beard, Lady Cassandra. Sometimes he feels like a coward for not coming out, but he daren’t risk losing the crown. If he did, the succession would fall on his deeply troubled younger sister, Princess Amelia. To protect her, James is willing to live a lie.

While on holiday, he meets Benjamin Dahan—a rugged international reporter with a globe-trotting, unattached life—who catches far more than James's eye. And when Ben is transferred to London, it seems fate may finally be smiling on James.

But what began as a torrid fling grows into something far more intimate and powerful. Soon James will have decide who he is, what he wants from life and love, and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the truth...

This is quite the fairy tale m/m romance! I first read His Royal Secret back in July but waited to review it and His Royal Favorite together as it really is one story. The main focus is on James, Prince of Wales, who is unhappily in the closet due to his concerns regarding how much of a tailspin his sexuality would throw both the monarchy and his family in were it to be known. He has a number of decent reasons for this, ranging from a mentally ill younger sibling who does not want to inherit, a scheming uncle who does, and worries over what kind of stance The Church of England will take and how that will affect public support. Beyond all that, James as lived a very privileged but undeniably controlled and limited life in preparation for becoming king, loss of the crown would make the loss of a normal youth feel a waste in so many ways and he is a both tender and steely young man who takes the duty he was raised for seriously. On a trip to Kenya is encounters globe-trotting reporter Benjamin Dahan and their clandestine affair is the center of the first book. Since their coming together was with the original understanding that no one was to ever know, and that it would have an end date, the relationship in the first book is more physical than emotional. Especially on the part of Ben, as he typically avoids relationships after having a very negative, but impactful, one in his youth. Everything changes when James makes the decision to come out publicly and Ben has to either accept that the affair is over or face the limelight. The only real drawback I felt the first book had was that it did feel almost entirely sexual at times, but that was also a reflection of the fact that, at that point, out of necessity on the part of James (who knew he wished he could have a real relationship) and unwillingness for more from Ben, it was all they agreed to.

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By: Diane
Adult, Review / July 5, 2016
Bittersweet by Sarina BowenBittersweet
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #1
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Date: June 2016
384 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary
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The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

Bittersweet is the first Sarina Bowen novel I’ve read and I loved it. In a genre full of MMA fighters, biker gangs, billionaire bachelors, and man-whores, it was refreshing to have a male lead who is an organic farmer in Vermont. Griffin tends fruit trees, milks cows, and makes artisan cider. He has a good relationship with his mother, three younger siblings, and grandfather, all whom his endless work helps support. You get an appreciation for the struggles farmers go through -the need to diversify your product in case one has a bad season and not enough product is there to sell, keeping an eye on where things are headed and which products will provide best over the long term, and just how much work it all is. The idea of right livelihood is something that means a lot to me and that plays a role in the story. At the end of the day, Griffin, his family, and the community of small passionate farmers that neighbor them, make their living offering something of health and value to others and do it in a manner that respects the land and animals that provide it for them. The balance between struggle and reward is something that is really noticeable from Griffins POV. He is young and misses his deceased father everyday and worries about his ability to make the right decisions for the business and his family. I found this all so much more interesting and easy to care about than other themes that often surround contemporary heroes.

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By: Diane