Book Review: Resting Witch Face by Juliette Cross

Resting Witch Face (Stay a Spell #5)
Publisher: Juliette Cross Publishing, LLC
Pub Date: 31 October 2022
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Twelve years ago, Jules Savoie ended her relationship with the vampire overlord of New Orleans, Ruben Dubois. For good reasons. A woman in power must often make sacrifices to protect others. She knows the truth of it down to her aching heart.

When Ruben watches his best friend Devraj get married, a stinging realization hits him hard…he’s done waiting. They say time heals all wounds. In this case, it merely sharpened the pain and made one fact crystal clear. Jules Savoie is his soulmate, and nothing would keep him from her. Not anymore.

Forced to work side by side to fight for the werewolf cause, they campaign together at covens from New Orleans to London. The reignited spark burns hotter than ever before. But when a power-hungry vampire sets his predatory sights on Jules, will their love be strong enough against black magic? Or will he lose her again? And this time, maybe…for good.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Violence, on-page sex (including orgy scenes, MCs do not participate), drugging, kidnapping, torture, assault, sexist behaviour

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Book Review: Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross

Always Practice Safe Hex (Stay a Spell #4)
Pub Date: 24 May 2022
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

There’s a reason no one messes with a grim…

Livvy Savoie is a people person. Not only does she have the magical gift of persuasion, but her natural charisma charms everyone she meets. She hasn’t met a person she didn’t like. Until her annoyingly brilliant competitor walks through the door. No matter how hard she denies it, loathing isn’t the only emotion she feels for him.

Grim reaper Gareth Blackwater is rarely, if ever, moved beyond his broody, stoic state. But the witch he’s partnered with in the public relations contest is destroying his peace of mind. He’s convinced that the flesh-melting attraction he feels for her is merely her witchy magic at work.

But forced proximity proves there is more than magic sparking between them. Livvy learns this enigmatic grim’s abilities are beyond any supernatural she has ever known. And when Livvy becomes the obsessive target of a dangerous wizard, Gareth proves just how powerful he truly is. Because no one is going to hurt his Lavinia.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Sexual harrassment (on-page), sexual assault (on-page), child abuse, light BDSM

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Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas
Publisher: Sceptre
Pub Date (Original): 17 August 2004
Genre: Literary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Slavery, infidelity, drug use, crude humour, racism, attempted murder, violence, blood/gore, mutilation, suicide, rape (graphic on-page, off-page)

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Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Pub Date: 5 July 2022
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.

In this exhilarating novel two friends—often in love, but never lovers—come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Childhood cancer, suicide (graphic, on-page), student-teacher relationship, abuse, sexism, racism, parental death, car accident, workplace shooting

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Book Review: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy
Publisher: Orbit
Pub Date: 23 August 2022
Genre: Fantasy Romance (Romantasy)

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Hart Ralston is a demigod and a marshal, tasked with patrolling the wasteland of Tanria. The realm the exiled old gods once called home is now a forsaken place where humans with no better options or no better sense come seeking adventure or spoils, but more often end up as drudges: reanimated corpses inhabited by the souls of those who’ve died in Tanria before. Hart tells himself that his job is simple: neutralize the drudges with a quick zap to the appendix and deliver them back to polite society at the nearest undertaker’s, leaving the whys and hows of the drudge problem for men without the complexities of a god in their family tree. But working alone, Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder exactly those questions he’d most like to avoid.

Too much time alone is the opposite of Mercy Birdsall’s problem. Since her father’s decline, she’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son undertakers afloat in small-town Eternity—despite definitely not being a son, and in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart Ralston, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest. The work’s not the problem—Mercy’s good at it, better than any other Birdsall—but keeping all her family’s plates spinning singlehandedly, forever, isn’t how Mercy envisioned her future.

After yet another run-in with the sharp-tongued Mercy, Hart considers she might have a point about his utter loneliness being a bit of a liability. In a moment of sentimentality, he pens a letter addressed simply to “A Friend,” and entrusts it to a nimkilim, an anthropomorphic animal messenger with an uncanny connection to the gods, (and in Hart’s case, a bit of a drinking problem). Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most–Mercy. As the two unlikely pen pals grow closer, the truth about Hart’s parentage and the nature of the drudges creeps in. And suddenly their old animosity seems so small in comparison to what they might be able to do: end the drudges forever. But at what cost?

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Parental abandonment, physical injuries including gunshot wounds, emesis, heart attack recounted, dead bodies, grief & loss depiction, death of a father recounted, death of a mother from cancer recounted, death of a grandparent from a stroke, attempted murder, animal death recounted (dog)

TL;DR: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is an entertaining, hilariously quirky and slightly morbid fantasy romance mixed with so many well-executed rom-com elements. This curious world sucked me in and the characters had me falling head-over-feet for them and I had such a hard time putting this down when it came time to fall asleep! I would definitely recommend it to those who love the hate-to-love/enemies-to-lovers trope, delicious emotional angst, all the grumpy/sunshine vibes in both romance and friendship, strong family banter and MCs who are so very easy to love.

Countless people told me that I was sure to love this romantasy and they weren’t wrong. I’m upset that it took me so long to read it but I’m glad that I finally picked it up on a whim yesterday because omgoodness, I adored it so very much! 😍 I don’t often re-read books but the minute I finished this I immediately missed these characters and wanted to dive back in again. Thank you in advance for reading this essay I wrote! 😂

Bannen swept me away to this weirdly quaint and macabre world where zombie-like creatures existed alongside portals to lands that served as a magical prison for Gods. The setting was a mix of old-fashioned historical western and magical modern quirkiness that sounds like such an odd combination but really worked so well for this story—it’s unlike any fantasy romance setting I’ve read before which made it so much more fun to read. Although the world-building was pretty light, I liked that it wasn’t so complex that I’d get lost in the intricacies but it was still enough for me to get a clear picture of what was happening, where and why. This had a mystery element too and though it was kind of predictable and only played a minor-ish role in pushing forward the romance and character development, it was still fun to figure it out.

As intriguing as the world-building is, the characters are 100% what won me over and I knew I would love all of them—main and side characters alike, the moment we are introduced to them! 💜

Mercy was absolutely wonderful! She has such a big heart and has so much love and kindness to share with everyone. She’s the oldest child and has worked tirelessly to support her family, from helping raise her siblings when their mum passed to now handling the family business since her dad got sick. Although everyone assumes she’s being held back from “living her life” due to these obligations, she actually loves being an undertaker and it was such a pleasure to read about her passion for providing people with the best care she can give them even if they’re no longer alive to see it. She’s selfless, which often meant she puts her wants and needs last, but her responsibilities also made her feel a little lonely and friendless. She is an easy character to admire and I loved her sunshine positivity!

“Oh. It’s you,” she said, the words and the unenthusiastic tone that went with them dropping off her tongue like a lead weight. Hart resisted the urge to grind his molars into a fine powder. “Most people start with hello.”
“Hello, Hart-ache,” she sighed.
“Hello, Merciless.”

In total grumpy contrast to her is Hart. He is a super-sad and super-lonely demigod and honestly, that romance hero archetype is absolutely my kryptonite so it’s safe to say that I LOVED him. He’s lost so many loved ones in his life and is understandably jaded because of it, but it’ll surprise no one to know that under his gruffness, Hart is an ooey-gooey softy who’s scared to live his life (in case he lives forever and has to lose everyone he loves all over again—y’know, immortality and all that jazz), and yet he craves the comfort of companionship though he doesn’t know how to show it. As much as I loved Mercy and her personal growth, I was most invested in Hart’s because he’s so harsh on himself but he deserves so much happiness and it was so satisfying to see him open up thanks to Mercy and Duckers entering his life. I honestly didn’t expect to get so emotionally invested but by the end of this book, I was full-on weeping (yes, I am a crier in general but it’s been a while, okay)!

And aah, don’t even get me started on their romance! It was everything! Totally *chefs kiss!* and I feel head-over-feet for these love birds! 💜 If you are a fan of the hate-to-love trope, with plenty of “I loathe this person and yet I can’t keep my eyes off them or stop thinking about them” vibes, then you’re for sure going to love the dynamic between Hart and Mercy. They both come in hot with slinging insults at each other and their snippy hate-filled banter is just as good as their friendship-turned-lovers banter! The emotional, physical and sexual tension was palpable each time they met and it created such delightfully angsty moments that had me questioning if they were going to take swipes at each other or launch themselves at each other for what we know will be a devastating kiss. Plus, knowing that they’re unwittingly writing to one another and cracking their chests wide open in those letters only served to ratchet up the tension and I loved every second of it! 😍 If you enjoy epistolary stories or mixed media formats, then you’ll enjoy the inclusion of their letters in this. The vulnerability, the cheeky banter, and the comforting connection they formed all came through so well in these letters and let me tell you, that last one had me seriously ugly crying, negl! 😂

“Bassareus regarded Hart, studied the bottle in his hand, then turned his attention back to Hart. “She must be a hot piece of ass.”
“You look like a rabbit, but you’re actually a pig, aren’t you?” Hart said, making it clear that this was a statement, not a question.”

Aside from our two wonderful MCs, the side characters all won me over too. Mercy’s family is delightfully weird and wonderful and it was such a blast to read all their interactions. They’re small but loud, rambunctious, and so full of life! I also adored Pen Duckers—Hart’s apprentice and the one who starts injecting more joy and life into Hart’s world. Their connection was all sorts of heartwarming and together they not only made a great team but also a little family unit that made my heart so happy. I can’t forget to mention the nimkilim Horatio and Bassareus, the latter who was shockingly and vulgar but it was so comical and somehow fitting for this giant magical rabbit’s personality. 😂 Honestly, so many of the characters and their dynamics in this book were hilarious and had me cracking up! This book was a lot funnier than I thought it’d be which just made reading Bannen’s writing all the more enjoyable to read.

I can really go on about this book but long story short is that I absolutely loved it, couldn’t put it down, want to go back to these characters immediately, and would highly recommend it to all of those who love romance and aren’t afraid to get it with a lite dose of fantasy. This is definitely one of my favourites this year (yes, I really loved it that much). Please read it! 💜

Have you read The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy or is it on your TBR?

Book Review: The Belle and the Beard by Kate Canterbary

Goodreads: The Belle and the Beard (The Santillian Triplets #3)
Publisher: Vesper Press
Published: 23 April 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Jasper-Anne Cleary’s guide to salvaging your life when you find yourself publicly humiliated, out of work, and unemployable at 35—not to mention newly single:

1. Run away. Seriously, there’s no shame in disappearing. Go to that rustic old cottage your aunt left you. Look out for the colony of bats and the leaky roof. Oh, and the barrel-chested neighbor with shoulders like the broad side of a barn. Definitely look out for him.
2. Stop wallowing and stay busy. It doesn’t matter whether you know how to bake or fix things around the house. Do it anyway. Dust off your southern hospitality and feed that burly, bearded neighbor some pecan pie.
3. Meet new people. Chat up the grumpy man-bear, pretend to be his girlfriend when his mother puts you two on the spot, agree to go as his date to a big family party. Don’t worry—it’s only temporary.
4. Cry it out. Screwing up your life entitles you to wine, broody-moody music, and uninterrupted sobbing.
5. Get over it all by getting under someone. Count on your fake boyfriend to deliver some very real action between the sheets.
6. Move on. The disappearing act, the cottage, the faux beau—none of it can last forever.

Linden Santillian’s guide to surviving the invasion when a hell-in-heels campaign strategist moves in next door:

1. Do not engage. There is no good reason you should chop her wood, haul her boxes, or pick her apples.
2. Do not accept gifts, especially not the homemade ones. Disconnect the doorbell, toss your phone over a bridge, hide in the basement if you must, but do not eat her pie.
3. Do not introduce her to your friends and family. They’ll favor her over you and never let you forget it.
4. Do not intervene when she’s crying on the back porch. Ignore every desire to fix the entire world for her. By no means should you take her into your arms and memorize her peach-sweet curves.
5. Do not take her to bed, even if it’s just to get her out of your system.
6. Do not, under any circumstances, fall in love with her.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Sexism, slut-shaming recounted, alcohol consumption, drug use mentioned, pregnancy & childbirth mentioned, grief & loss depiction, recounted death of an aunt and death of a father from suicide recounted

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ARC Review: Taproot by Keezy Young

Special thanks to Oni Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Taproot
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication date: 28 June 2022
Genre: Young Adult Graphic Novel

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)


Blue is having a hard time moving on. He’s in love with his best friend. He’s also dead. Luckily, Hamal can see ghosts, leaving Blue free to haunt him to his heart’s content. But something eerie is happening in town, leaving the local afterlife unsettled, and when Blue realizes Hamal’s strange ability may be putting him in danger, Blue has to find a way to protect him, even if it means… leaving him.

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#TopTenTuesday: Favourite Comfort Reads

So, we’re back with another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week is actually a freebie and so I decided to do a topic that I don’t think I’ve done before: Comfort Reads (Share which books or kinds of books you turn to when you need to escape. You can either share specific titles if you love to re-read, or you could share qualities of books you look for in a comfort read.)

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ARC Review: Everything for You by Chloe Liese

Special thanks to Chloe Liese for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Everything for You (Bergman Brothers #5)
Publication date: 10 May 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)


Gear up for an all-the-feels, steamy slow-burn in this enemies-to-lovers sports romance about fighting for love when life’s taught you it’s a losing game.

Gavin
We’ve been teammates for two years, but it feels like a lifetime that Oliver Bergman’s been on my last nerve. A demanding captain and veteran player, I’m feared and friendless, while he’s the beloved rising star, all sunshine smiles and upbeat team spirit. To make matters worse, he’s obscenely attractive. In short: he’s genetically designed to get under my skin. Avoiding Oliver has been my survival tactic on and off the field. But when Coach drops the bomb that we’re now co-captains, avoiding him becomes impossible, and keeping the truth from him–let alone my distance–is harder than ever.

Oliver
Life was great until soccer legend Gavin Hayes joined the team and proved he’s nothing like the guy I grew up idolizing. Instead, he’s a giant–albeit gorgeous–grump who lives to rain on my parade. I’ve sworn off pranks since entering the public eye, so rather than settle our differences the Bergman way, I’ve had to settle for killing Gavin with kindness. There’s just one problem: killing him with kindness is killing me. To make matters worse, Coach gives us an ultimatum: put an end to our enmity or say goodbye to being captains. I’m prepared to be miserable while we meet her demands and make nice, but the last thing I expect is to discover an explosive attraction we can’t help but act on, and worse yet, to realize the man hiding beneath Gavin’s gruff exterior is all I’ve ever wanted.

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