Bookshelf Roundup: 05/21/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

This week, a trio of gems from the amazing folks at Titan Books! I was very excited to received Never the Wind by Francesco Dimitri, the author of The Book of Hidden Things which as you know I loved. I have been wondering for a long time if he would write another book in English, and I guess now I have my answer with this one which is described as a “bittersweet gothic fantasy.”

Next up is Hooked by A.C. Wise, who is also the author of Wendy, Darling. As you can probably tell by the title, this one’s also a Peter Pan reimagining, following Wendy and Captain Hook after the events in Neverland. Given its inspiration, how could I say no?

But perhaps what excited me most of all was the arrival of Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi. After the author’s previous novel Come With Me topped the list of my favorite books in 2021, this one is easily one of my most anticipated releases of the year.

And in the digital haul, a big thank you to Macmillan Audio for this huge ALC drop! It’s a lot, so I’m just going to list and link them. Many of these have featured in previous Waiting on Wednesday posts, including Kagen the Damned by Jonathan MaberryBlack Tide by K.C. JonesA Rip Through Time by Kelley ArmstrongThe Favor by Nora MurphyThe Grief of Stones by Katherine AddisonOrdinary Monsters by J.M. MiroOur Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert, and Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne.

Reviews

The Atlas Six by Olivie Black (3 of 5 stars)
Book of Night by Holly Black (3 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

Friday Face-Off: Yellow

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Sunny and bright”
~ a cover that is predominantly YELLOW

Blade of Secrets by Trisha Levenseller

A pure yellow cover can be hard to find, and I also wanted a fantasy pick to fit the month’s theme of Wyrd & Wonder. Luckily, Trisha Levenseller’s Blade of Secrets provided a few good options, not to mention it was also a pretty awesome book.

From left to right:
Feiwel & Friends (2021) – German Edition (2022) – Pushkin’s Children’s Books (2022)

Winner:

A sword engulfed in flames seems to be the common theme among these covers, but the Pushkin’s Children’s Books edition immediately caught my attention because of the art style. The fire might not be as realistic looking as the others, but it’s bold and loud and it just stands out.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

#WyrdandWonder Audiobook Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Atlas

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 1, 2022)

Length: 15 hrs and 59 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrators: James Cronin, Siho Ellsmore, Munirih Grace, Andy Ingalls, Caitlin Kelly, Damian Lynch, David Monteith, Steve West

3 solid stars for this one, no more no less. But how could a book with such an amazing premise be so mediocre, you ask? Granted, there were certain things I absolutely loved about The Atlas Six, but more often than not I found myself wishing there was more—wishing that everything about this book was just more.

The story begins with six magically gifted young people, called medians, who are given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Alexandrian Society, a top-secret organization for magical practitioners and academics, is looking for five new members to fill their exclusive ranks. They are looking for the best of the best, and the competition will be fierce. But once you’re in, you would be set for life as a caretaker for the world’s most precious stores of knowledge and secrets. The prestige alone would be worth it, but with the position also comes immense power and wealth.

The first of our candidates is Libby Rhodes, an elementalist. She’s embroiled in a bitter rivalry with Nicolás Ferrer de Varona, who’s also skilled in elemental magic and is gunning for a spot with the Alexandrian Society. Next is Reina Mori, whose specialty is nature magic, which gives her a strong connection to the power of life itself. Then there’s Parisa Kamali, whose telepathic gifts are unrivaled. The fifth candidate is Tristan Caine, the son of a criminal overlord with the ability to through illusions to the truth of the world. And finally, there’s Callum Nova. He’s got loads of money, good looks, and extraordinary powers of the mind.

The six of them are brought together to study at the Society, knowing that at the end of the year, one of them will be eliminated. With that knowledge hanging over all their heads, the rest of the story follows our characters as they learn about each other and hone their magical skills.

Quite honestly? That’s pretty much the extent of it. At its core, The Atlas Six is a magic school story—which normally would be totally up my street. Unfortunately though, the plot squanders much of that potential. Try to imagine Harry Potter but without the charm or the fun, and meanwhile, don’t forget to crank the angst up to 11. Like I said, the book had its moments, but they tended to get lost in drama. A lot of drama, unrelenting drama! What I wanted was more about the Alexandrian Society, more about who our six main characters on a deeper level, but instead, what I got was a lot of smarmy posturing and the usual snark of people trying to act cooler and cleverer than they actually are. Which, as you can imagine, got super old super quick.

Don’t get me wrong, the writing is lovely and the author Olivie Blake clearly has a keen imagination and a talent with words. The world is gorgeously described and brought to life, the tension among the characters thick enough to cut even when they’re all being miserable and insufferable. The problem was I disliked most of them, which is probably no surprise. The build-up to the final reveal was also much too long, and the payoff not enough.

Ultimately the ending was expected, though I would be curious to see what the next book will bring. Despite the mixed feelings I have for The Atlas Six, there are seeds planted here that can grow to be more. I just hope the plot will be more eventful, and that Blake won’t string readers along as much. I’ll also probably stick with the audiobook. In many instances, the full cast was what kept me motivated to keep going even when the story stalled, especially since it included some of my favorite narrators like Caitlin Kelly and Steve West.

Waiting on Wednesday 05/18/2022

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Raven Unveiled by Grace Draven (November 8, 2022 by Ace)

I’ve been loving the fantasy romance stories in Grace Draven’s The Fallen Empire world and I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll love this third one too. So excited!

“A woman with the gift to speak to the dead—and the assassin pursuing her—may be the only chance a crumbling empire has of holding back true evil, in this electrifying fantasy romance from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Siora has been on the run for longer than she cares to remember, from her past and her gift. Born with the ability to see and speak to ghosts, she has heard their desperate pleas as an otherworldly predator stalks the dead amid the fertile killing fields of the collapsing Krael Empire. The creature’s power and reach are growing with every soul it consumes, but Siora is preoccupied with her own troubles: namely an assassin who has sworn an oath of vengeance against her.

Gharek of Cabast was once the right-hand man of the reviled empress but is now a wanted fugitive. Although his reasons for hunting Siora are viscerally personal, what Gharek can’t anticipate is that when he finally does find her, she will hold the key to saving his world, or what’s left of it. To make good on old debts and protect the vulnerable dead from a malevolent force, Gharek and Siora will both need to make an ally out of an enemy—and trust that will be enough to save each other.”

#WyrdandWonder Review: Book of Night by Holly Black

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Book of Night by Holly Black

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1

Publisher: Tor Books | Macmillan Audio (May 3, 2022)

Length: 320 pages | 12 hrs and 33 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator (Audiobook): Sara Amini

Wow, a lot to unpack with this one! I wish I could say I loved Book of Night because I’m a big fan of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series, but somehow the magic in her YA simply did not translate as well to her first go at a fantasy novel for adults. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book, but not going to lie, there were times where it was a real struggle to keep my focus.

As the story opens, we meet our protagonist Charlie Hall, a former thief who specializes in stealing for and from gloamists, the term for individuals with magical abilities. In this world, shadows can come to life and be controlled by these magic users, who fuel this shadowy power with their own blood. Needless to say, it can be a nasty and cutthroat business, and there’s always treachery afoot with gloamists trying to get at each other’s secrets.

Enter Charlie, who used make a living being hired to acquire rare and magical documents prized by gloamists. Now though, all she wants is to turn over a new leaf and leave her dark past behind, but unfortunately, walking the honest path isn’t exactly paying the bills and when a lucrative job suddenly lands in her lap, she can hardly bring herself to say no. Before she knows it, Charlie is dragged back into her old life, trying to survive in the underworld of dangerous magic and shadow trading.

First, the good: Holly Black is a world-building expert, whether she is trying to put together a fae society in The Folk of the Air or, in this case, a world where shadows can quicken and manifest into being—which, by the way, is as creepy as it sounds. Gloamists with these magical shadows can cause them to shift and manipulate them to do their bidding, which could include killing or even possessing another person. Of course, there are magical defenses that gloamists can employ, but these will only stop other gloamists and magical attacks, and so that’s where non-magical people like Charlie come in.

Speaking of Charlie though, that’s where the novel’s self-assuredness begins to crumble. Our protagonist is a fascinating character, with a well-written and engaging background which made me want to keep reading. However, in the process of writing a badass and more mature character, Black had apparently neglected in giving her much of a personality. If that sounds harsh, it’s not meant to be; Charlie was interesting enough, but overall there was an underwhelming “flatness” to her I couldn’t shake. Put it another way, I didn’t find her to be a very memorable or inspiring.

Perhaps that’s why I had to struggle through certain parts of the story. The plot was serviceable, but not even the amazing world-building could elevate it much more beyond that. The middle section of the book dragged a little, which resulted in me taking longer than usual to finish. Things are steady, but there’s just no drive.

And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I love how lately so many well-known YA authors have been stepping out of their comfort zones and trying their hand at adult fantasy, but there’s clearly adjustments to be made—in tone, style, pacing, level of detail and depth…in pretty much everything.

Hate it say it, but Book of Night just wasn’t quite there. Yet. I am optimistic though, because it does show a lot of promise, and the ending strongly points to there being a sequel. Even with all the elements that could have been improved, I very much want to continue the series.

Bottom line, fans of Holly Black will probably find this to feel quite different. It’s not a “great” different, but at the same time, it’s not a bad kind of different either. If this is going to be a series, it’s going to need some time to grow and develop, but I have a feeling it’ll get there, and after that punch-in-the-face of an ending, I’m interested to see where things will go.

Bookshelf Roundup: 05/14/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Thank you to William Morrow for a review copy of the new thriller Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez. I absolutely adored her debut No Bad Deed, so the arrival of this was very exciting!

With thanks also to the amazing team at Orbit Books for the following pretties! August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White was a new one to me, but I’ve enjoyed the author’s work before, and hey, I’m up for anything with mecha. I’m also intrigued by the delightful synopsis of Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater, the first book of a new series called Regency Faerie Tales. Sounds like the perfect mood read! And last but not least is For The Throne by Hannah Whitten, the second novel of Wilderwood. The first book For The Wolf was very promising, and I’m looking forward to see how the series will develop in this sequel.

With thanks to Hachette Audio, I received a trio of listening copies this week. I’m going to have plenty to keep me busy with Child Zero by Chris Holm, Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, and The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans.

Reviews

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough (4.5 of 5 stars)
Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch (4 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

Thursday Thriller Audio: Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: HarperAudio (April 12, 2022)

Length: 10 hrs and 9 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Sarah Durham

Sarah Pinborough has certainly found her niche when it comes to twisty, blow-your-mind thrillers. Speaking as someone who often struggles with trouble sleeping and knowing how much it messes with your brain, I admit the premise of the author’s latest novel Insomnia intrigued me. From the synopsis, it’s clear she’s taken the concept to a whole other level—a frightening one.

In Insomnia, we follow protagonist Emma Averall, an ambitious working mom of two busy making her way up the corporate ladder at a high-powered law firm while her husband stays at home and raises the kids. It’s an arrangement everyone has been happy with, that is until recently, as Emma’s fortieth birthday approaches. That was the same age when her mother lost her mind, and something so heinous happened that Emma and her older sister Phoebe had to go into foster care. Emma was only five at the time.

Now Emma is terrified that what afflicted her mother will come for her as well. And the fact that lately she can’t sleep is adding to her worries. As the insomnia worsens, Emma also starts losing time during the day, putting her career and all that she’s worked so hard for at risk. Above all, she’s done everything in her power to put the past behind her, but try as she might, she just can’t keep her childhood horrors from coming back.

And that’s all I’ll say, because Sarah Pinborough’s books are always best enjoyed the less you know going in. As usual, she’s brilliant at writing unreliable narrators, and Emma is a testament to that. Anyone with a busy lifestyle will find her sympathetic; a successful lawyer trying to juggle long hours at work and still spend quality time at home with her husband and children, what our protagonist is doing is the very definition of burning the candle at both ends. She loves her family and cares for those around her, which just worsens her fear. It was disconcerting to watch this successful, well put together woman just start coming apart at the seams. Slowly going insane. Or is she? It was such a trip, not knowing which way this story was going to go.

That’s where things get fun. Because the truth is, it’s hard to see anything in this book coming. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, something else would happen to blow all my theories apart. It was overwhelming, but at the same time, it wasn’t. I was simply having a great time watching and anticipating what came next. It was the perfect combination of suspense and strangeness—and this being a Pinborough novel, you know there will be strangeness. If this is your first rodeo with her thrillers, just hang on tight and go with it. In the end, it’s easy to get sucked in.

Eventually, you’ll get to the big reveal. The big twist, or the WTF ending. You may need to suspend your disbelief, but again that’s par for the course. I’ve read crazier from the author (Behind Her Eyes, anyone?) but this one was pretty wild too in its own way. I liked it, though I can also understand why it wouldn’t work for everyone, because it’s a bit over-the-top.

At the end of the day though, I had a blast with Insomnia, as I knew I would because Sarah Pinborough’s thrillers never fail to disappoint. If I need to read something entertaining, fast-moving and addictive, her books always deliver, and in audio format, they are even better. Sarah Durham was fantastic as narrator for the audiobook edition of Insomnia, impressing me with a performance that kept me riveted from beginning to end.

Waiting on Wednesday 05/11/2022

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans (September 13, 2022 by Orbit)

It’s Wyrd & Wonder month, so Waiting on Wednesdays in May are all about the fantasy releases I’m looking forward to. I just found out about Notorious Sorcerer recently, but the fact that it’s a debut releasing from Orbit is enough to get me interested, and publisher description sounds promising.

“Since the city of Bezim was shaken half into the sea by a magical earthquake, the Inquisitors have policed alchemy with brutal efficiency. Nothing too powerful, too complicated, too much like real magic is allowed–and the careful science that’s left is kept too expensive for any but the rich and indolent to tinker with. Siyon Velo, a glorified errand boy scraping together lesson money from a little inter-planar fetch and carry, doesn’t qualify.

But when Siyon accidentally commits a public act of impossible magic, he’s catapulted into the limelight. Except the limelight is a bad place to be when the planes themselves start lurching out of alignment, threatening to send the rest of the city into the sea.

Now Siyon, a dockside brat who clawed his way up and proved himself on rooftops with saber in hand, might be Bezim’s only hope. Because if they don’t fix the cascading failures of magic in their plane, the Powers and their armies in the other three will do it for them.”

#WyrdandWonder Audiobook Review: Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 9 of Peter Grant/Rivers of London

Publisher: Penguin Audio (April 12, 2022)

Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Every time I come to a Rivers of London book, it’s like putting on a cozy sweater or snuggling under a warm blanket. Part of it is the comfort of returning to a series I love, and another part of it is knowing that I’m pretty much guaranteed a good story. That’s because Detective Constable and wizard apprentice Peter Grant is always on an interesting case.

Amongst Our Weapons is the ninth volume of the series by Ben Aaronovitch, and picks up not long after the previous book. Peter is about to be a father to twins, with Beverly’s due date coming up fast. The hidden world of magic isn’t going to rest though, and as the story opens, our protagonist is investigating a murder at the London Silver Vaults with his partner Sahra Guleed. As usual, nothing is as it seems. The victim, who had been in the middle of trying to rob the place, was apparently interrupted by a flash of blinding light. The next moment, he was dead on the floor with a hole in his chest. All witnesses to the scene have also seemed to develop memory loss, unable to provide the police with anything useful.

Gradually, Peter works out some of the details. The dead man had been after a ring—and it’s a very special ring by the sounds of it. Peter has no doubt it was magical, based on the descriptions of its markings and symbols. The problem though, is that no record of it exists at the Vaults, and that’s not the strangest part. Peter is finding it difficult to read the vestigia surrounding the entire crime scene, and not even his mentor DCI Thomas Nightingale can make much sense of it.

Traveling around London and beyond, Amongst Our Weapons takes us on another whirlwind paranormal journey that should be a real treat to fans of the author and series. Is it the best book of the bunch? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun. In fact, this is probably one of the better installments, with a solid mystery at its core. The plot is well-paced and entertaining, introducing even more new elements into the world of Rivers of London, which is impressive and pretty damn cool considering we’re nine books deep at this point. There’s still absolutely plenty to keep longtime readers entertained, and as always, there’s something to learn at every turn—especially if those little nuggets of architectural history are something you enjoy.

The evolution of Peter Grant is also amazing to witness. He’s come a long way since the first book, becoming a skilled wizard in his own right, even though Nightingale is still the magical heavyweight. As Peter’s career continues to flourish though, so too does his personal life. I like that Beverly has become a steady presence in his inner circle, and that they are now a family. Guleed is also a great supporting character and I’m happy to be seeing more of her with each book.

As for the negatives, I feel the fact that Aaronovitch keeps bringing back elements from earlier on can be a sticking point for some. Don’t get me wrong, I generally don’t mind when subsequent books build on what came before, because that’s how great series are made, especially in the urban fantasy genre. Plus, there are certain things that I’m glad have stuck around, like the foxes. That said though, as much as I understand the need for an arch nemesis for Peter, it still bugs me a little that Lesley is like a canker sore that keeps coming back. I suppose it’d help if I found her more interesting, but I don’t. A completely fresh story arc with a new villain—new everything—might be something this series needs in the near future, but on the positive side, at least we’ve mostly moved on from the Faceless Man which is a huge relief.

On the whole, Amongst Our Weapons might not have been the best book of the series, but it was still a strong entry. Having read all the previous books in print, this was also my first experience with a Rivers of London audiobook, and holy crap guys, the hype is real. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a fantastic narrator and now I understand why his Peter Grant has so many fans. For the next book, I’m definitely coming back to the audio.

Review of Whispers Underground (Book 3)
Review of Broken Homes (Book 4)
Review of Foxglove Summer (Book 5)
Review of What Abigail Did That Summer (Book 5.3)
Review of The Furthest Station (Book 5.7)
Review of The Hanging Tree (Book 6)
Review of Lies Sleeping (Book 7)
Review of False Value (Book 8)

Bookshelf Roundup: 05/07/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for a review copy of horror/noir mashup Friend of the Devil by Stephen Lloyd. I can’t wait to start this one! Anyone who knows me knows I can’t resist any story set in elite boarding schools, though I’ve been seeing some mixed reviews and now I’m getting a little nervous.

With thanks to the amazing folks at Del Rey, I also received an ARC of The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez, who also authored the splendid novel The Vanished Birds. I hope this one will be as unique and fun to read.

Courtesy of the awesome team at Pyr, I also received The Hourglass Throne by K.D. Edwards. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this third book of the Tarot Sequence, even though it’s only been a few years since the last book The Hanged Man. I’m looking forward to continuing the series.

Huge thanks also to Tordotcom for sending me a review copy of Rosebud by Paul Cornell, a sci-fi locked room mystery. Enough said.

And finally, with thanks to Grand Central Publishing for The Night They Vanished by Vanessa Savage, which will satisfy my psychological thriller fix for the week. The story has a “dark tourism” element, a type of tourism that involves traveling to and visiting sites associated with death, suffering, and other macabre events.

Just one book in the digital haul, if you can believe it. Thank you to Penguin Audio for Darling Girl by Liz Michalski, because how can I say no to anything Peter Pan related?

Wyrd & Wonder 2022

The big news around the blogosphere this week is of course Wyrd & Wonder 2022, which is now live! You can check out my announcement post for my plans and what I’m hoping to read this month.

Reviews

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (5 of 5 stars)
Tear Down the Throne by Jennifer Estep (4 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

  

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!