Book Review: The Crooked Mask – Rachel Burge

Book Review: The Crooked Mask – Rachel Burge


Series:
The Twisted Tree #2
Release Date: September 17th 2020
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages:  278
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Deep in a forest in Northern Norway lies the Circus of Myth & Mayhem.

Martha is certain that unsolved mysteries are hidden there – and talks her way into getting a job as a psychic.

She soon learns there’s something very strange about the circus. Costumed performers re-enact stories of the Norse gods wearing masks, which move and change expression, yet no one notices but her. And then there’s the creepy jester who invites her to ‘play’.

When an old friend shows up at the circus Martha is thrown into turmoil. Is he there because he misses her or because he wants to stop her discovering the truth? And he isn’t the only liar she has to worry about. Loki has taken an interest in the circus and Martha finds herself drawn into a dangerous game of the gods. She must look behind the mask and see what’s really happening . . . before it’s too late.

Review

The Crooked Mask is the sequel to Rachel Burge’s The Twisted Tree. Following on from the events of book one the story follows Martha as she ends up working at the Circus of Myth and Mayhem in an attempt to uncover the truth behind Nina’s death. When she discovers there is much more going on in the circus than she first thought, she is drawn into a dangerous game with the trickster god Loki, but can she uncover the truth before it’s too late?

I really loved The Twisted Tree so I was super excited to dive into this second instalment. The story is just as beautifully written and Burge’s writing really brings to life the wintry landscape and the magical setting of the circus. Burge writes really great scary moments and there were definitely some scenes where I felt a shiver up my spine. Like the first book the story is pretty fast paced and I found myself racing through The Crooked Mask just as quickly as I did The Twisted Tree.

I really liked Martha as a main protagonist in book one so I enjoyed following her again in book two as she continued to learn more about her powers and her family history. Burge has created a really fascinating world in this book and I loved the way she weaved this ghost story with Norse mythology. There were quite a few twists I didn’t see coming in this one and I loved how it all ended.

If you’re a fan of creepy stories and Norse mythology this is definitely a series to get reading. I enjoyed every second of this one and really hope there will be a third book in the series!

Book Review: Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley

Book Review: Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley


Release Date: March 16th 2021
Publisher: Solaris
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

This is a place where we can be alone, together.

Skyward Inn, on the moorlands of the Western Protectorate, is removed from modern technology and politics. Theirs is a quiet life – The Protectorate has stood apart from the coalition of world powers that has formed. Instead the inhabitants choose to live simply, many of them farming by day and drinking the local brew at night.

The co-owners of the inn are Jem and Isley. Jem, a veteran of the coalitions’ war on the perfect, peaceful planet of Qita, has a smile for everyone in the bar. Her partner Isley does his cooking in the kitchen and his brewing in the cellar. He’s Qitan, but it’s all right – the locals treat him like one of their own. They think they understand him, but it’s only Jem who knows his homeland well enough to recreate it in the stories she tells him at dawn.

Skyward Inn is Jamaica Inn by way of Ursula Le Guin, bringing the influences, too, of Angela Carter, Michel Faber and Jeff Vandermeer to create a fantastic story of love, belonging, and togetherness. Asking questions of ideas of the individual and the collective, of ownership and historical possession, and of the experience of being human, it is at once timeless and thoroughly of its time.

Review

Skyward Inn is the strange and beautiful story of Jem and Isley – the co-owners of an inn in the moorlands of the Western Protectorate. Their life is a quiet one, away from the modern advancements in technology and politics. We are similarly introduced to Fosse – Jem’s son who lives with his Uncle. All three characters are trying to find acceptance in this world and survive a world of aliens and travel between planets.

Skyward Inn is quite a quiet story. It has some absolutely stunning prose and it pulls you in with its beautiful words and the intricate world building. It’s not an overly big book and I found myself becoming completely lost in the story – I pretty much read the book in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon.

Whiteley has created some incredibly fascinating characters all of whom are searching for something. The story focuses on acceptance, community and the idea of belonging. It’s a cleverly executed tale and one that has definitely made me keen to read more from Aliya Whiteley. The relationships in this story were really interesting – particularly the strained relationship between Jem and her son Fosse.

Skyward Inn is a moving and thought provoking tale, completely unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a clever story and one I can’t recommend highly enough.

Blog Tour: The Game Weavers – Rebecca Zahabi

Blog Tour: The Game Weavers – Rebecca Zahabi


Release Date:
October 25th 2020
Publisher: ZunTold Publishing
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Seo is Twine’s youth champion.

We are in a darker Britain and the national sport is not football but Twine, a game where weavers craft creatures from their fingertips to wage battle against others in vast arenas, watched by thousands.

But we are living in intolerant times and Seo harbours a secret. When he is outed as gay by the media, Seo cannot use his magic to save him.

With the help of his brother Minjun and Jack, the man he can’t quite decide if he loves or not, Seo has to fight to get his life back on track whilst facing the biggest match of his career.

A fantastical yet hauntingly contemporary debut novel from Rebecca Zahabi.

Review

The Game Weavers is the absolutely fascinating debut novel from Rebecca Zahabi. The story follows Seo, a young man who is a champion at Britain’s national sport Twine – a game in which the player must create creatures that battle each other in huge arenas. Despite the futuristic game society has become even more intolerant and when the media outs Seo as gay, he has to fight to get his life back on track as well as continue to compete in the legendary game.

Zahabi has created a really fresh and unique premise, and I found this story to be incredibly gripping. I absolutely loved the idea of Twine, a fighting game similar to the idea of Pokemon in which creatures must battle each other. The story was well paced and I enjoyed learning about the game and the world that Zahabi has brought to life. I really enjoyed her writing style and it was so easy to sink into this brilliant debut novel.

The Game Weavers features a diverse cast of characters and I really liked Seo as a main protagonist. I was really rooting for him and it was interesting seeing him attempt to get his life back to normal, figure out his feeling for Jack as well as play in the game. All the characters were well created and I also really liked the sibling relationship between Seo and Minjun.

The story focuses on homophobia and as such there are some trigger warnings for this. I thought the subject was well handled and the idea of being true to yourself really shined through in the story. The Game Weavers is a well crafted novel with a unique and engaging premise. This is a very impressive debut and I’m excited to see what Rebecca Zahabi writes next.

Blog Tour: Poisoned – Jennifer Donnelly

Blog Tour: Poisoned – Jennifer Donnelly


Release Date:
October 20th 2020
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5

Synopsis

From Jennifer Donnelly, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Stepsister, comes a fairytale retelling that’ll forever change the way you think about strength, power, and the real meaning of “happily ever after.”
Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman pulled out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.

Review

Poisoned is the new release from acclaimed author Jennifer Donnelly, author of Stepsister. Having read and really enjoyed Stepsister last year, I was really intrigued how Donnelly was going to take the tale of Snow White and turn it on its head. The story follows Sophie, a princess who ventures into the forest with the huntsman. While there he removes Sophie’s heart. The kingdom had been awash that she was never fit to rule, that she was too soft and sweet to be a good Queen and so she isn’t surprised by the assassination attempt. Sophie manages to survive and with the help of seven strangers, must face a horrifying enemy and prove that kindness can be just as strong as hate.

Much like Stepsister, Poisoned is a dark and gripping feminist retelling of a story we all know and love. I really enjoyed the way that Donnelly adapted the story and brought something new to the tale. This is such a fun feminist retelling and I ended up racing through it. The chapters are pretty short so I often found myself saying ‘oh just one more’ and then still being there ten chapters later.

The world building is well done in this story, and I loved the feminist perspective in this book. The story is obviously a bit darker and bloodier than the Disney version but it’s still full of whimsy like a traditional fairy tale. Donnelly has a really beautiful writing style and I loved the vivid descriptions of the forest and the creatures that dwell there. The one thing I struggled with was that I felt the pacing was a bit off – some parts were really fast paced and others were much slower and this threw me out of the story a little.

The thing that made this story for me was the characters. Donnelly has created some really fascinating characters and we are treated to multiple POVs in this story. All the characters felt well fleshed out and I really liked Sophie as a main character. Poisoned is a dark and compelling tale and if you’re looking for a fresh take on a beloved fairytale, this will absolutely be up your street.

Blog Tour: Ashes of the Sun – Django Wexler

Blog Tour: Ashes of the Sun – Django Wexler


Series:
Burningblade & Silvereye #1
Release Date: October 1st 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy.

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

Review

Ashes of the Sun is the first in an all new epic fantasy series from Django Wexler. This is my first time reading a book by this author and I had so much fun! The story follows Gyre, who hasn’t seen his sister since his parents sold her off to the Twilight Order. Hellbent on seeking revenge for his sister, Gyre goes in search of an artifact that will give him enough power to destroy the Order, but in doing so finds his long lost sister. She is much changed, a hardened warrior for the Order. As civil war looms, the two find themselves on opposite sides of what is sure to be a devastating fight.

Ashes of the Sun is a really gripping read and a fantastic opening book to the series. The world building is superb and I was fascinating by this world that is still attempting to rebuild after a magic war. I really enjoyed Wexler’s writing style and it was easy to become completely absorbed in the story. The story was well paced, giving the reader time to understand the world without being info-dumpy. There was plenty of action to keep the reader hooked and I found it particularly hard to put the book down during the fighting scenes.

Wexler has created some truly brilliant characters in this book. We are treated to the POVs of Maya and Gyre and I really liked both characters. I loved seeing the relationship dynamics change as the story progressed. Gyre in particular I found fascinating, he’s so determined to get revenge he will stop at nothing. While it is quite a serious story there are plenty light-hearten moments in the story too, particularly in the witty banter between the characters.

All in all Wexler has created a really fascinating and compelling story and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next instalment. If you’re looking for an excellently plotted epic fantasy to keep you hooked over the winter months this should absolutely be your next read.

Blog Tour: A Golden Fury – Samantha Cohoe

Blog Tour: A Golden Fury – Samantha Cohoe


Release Date:
13th October 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Pages: 352
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon.
Source: I received an E-ARC of this via Netgalley
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

Review

A Golden Fury originally caught my eye because of that beautiful cover but after reading the synopsis for this one I was immediately intrigued to know more. The story follows Thea Hope, a young girl longing to be an alchemist like her mother. However her mother controls all the aspects of her life and Thea wants nothing more than to help her uncover the secrets of the philosopher’s stone. Whilst looking at her mother’s stones Thea discovers that there is a curse placed on the stone that drives anyone who uses it to insanity. Forced to flee France and live in Oxford, Thea soon becomes entangled with a group of alchemists desperate to steal her knowledge and create the stone themselves.

A Golden Fury is a really enjoyable read, full of mystery and atmosphere. I loved the setting of the story and Cohoe did a great job with the world building. The story is an engrossing one and I was completely fascinated by the idea of alchemy and the possibility of creating the Philosopher’s Stone. It definitely felt like Cohoe brought a fresh perspective to a well known story and I loved learning about the alchemy and the work Thea and her mother did.

A Golden Fury drops the reader right into the middle of the story and there’s plenty to keep the reader hooked. I did feel the pacing was a little off, with it being a bit on the slower side to start. Despite this I really enjoyed this one overall and I really liked Thea as a main protagonist. It was interesting seeing her relationships with her parents and how they changed over time. Thea is quite a likeable character – she’s strong and smart and she stands up for what she believes in.

Overall I thought A Golden Fury was an impressive debut and I would be interested to read more from Samantha Cohoe. Her beautiful writing style and fascinating world had me hooked from the very beginning. If you’re looking for an addictive new historical fantasy to escape in this autumn, A Golden Fury has got you covered.

Blog Tour: Misfits – Hunter Shea

Blog Tour: Misfits – Hunter Shea


Release Date:
September 8th 2020
Publisher: Flame Tree Press
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

During the height of the 90s grunge era, five high school friends living on the fringe are driven to the breaking point. When one of their friends is brutally raped by a drunk townie, they decide to take matters into their own hands.

Deep in the woods of Milbury, Connecticut, there lives the legend of the Melon Heads, a race of creatures that shun human interaction and prey on those who dare to wander down Dracula Drive. Maybe this night, one band of misfits can help the other. Or maybe some legends are meant to be feared for a reason.

Review

Misfits is the dark and gruesome tale that follows five friends who are outcasts in their small town of Milbury Connecticut. When one of their friends is attacked the group decide to take matters into their own hands and seek justice. The woods surrounding the town are home to the legendary Melon Heads. When the two groups collide they think that perhaps they can be of use to each other – but at what cost?

This is my first Hunter Shea book and it was such a dark and brutal read. It was a perfect horror story to get engrossed in and one I couldn’t tear my eyes away from. It had me on the edge of my seat right from the outset and it definitely creeped me out on more than one occasion. The story is quite a violent one, with plenty of brutal and bloody moments.

I really liked Shea’s writing style and it was really easy to sink into the story. The story is set in the 90s grunge era and it was fascinating seeing that come alive in the story. I really liked the group of misfits in this story and I found myself getting attached to them quite early on. I was rooting for them from the beginning and hoping they would survive the night.

The story is a gruesome one, but it is a well executed tale and it’s absolutely perfect for some late night Halloween reading. I loved the way that Shea used the idea of the local legend, creating a story that is an entertaining horror read. If you’re looking for something fast paced, full of action and plenty of horrifying moments, Misfits should definitely be your next read.

Blog Tour: Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris

Blog Tour: Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris


Release Date:
September 3rd 2020
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 240
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

When you can find me an acre of land,
Every sage grows merry in time,
Between the ocean and the sand
Then will you be united again.
(Inspired by The Child Ballads 2 & 19)

So begins a beautiful and tragic quest as a heartbroken mother sets out to save her lost daughter, through the realms of the real, of dream, and even into the underworld itself.

But determination alone is not enough. For to save something precious, she must give up something precious, be it a song, a memory, or her freedom itself . . .

Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

Review

Joanne Harris is one of those auto-buy authors for me so when I heard she was releasing another novella inspired by the Child Ballads I was incredibly excited to read it. I absolutely devoured A Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road so I couldn’t wait to see what she would write next. Orfeia is the beautiful and moving tale of Fay, a mother who has lost her daughter. Whilst out for a run she slips into another London where she learns that her daughter lingers in the halls of the Hallowe’en king. Fay must navigate this dangerous dream realm to enter the halls and rescue her daughter.

Like the previous two stories, Orfeia is an incredibly lyrical story, full of beautiful prose. Harris creates a fascinating world in Orfeia and the reader quickly becomes enveloped in the story. It’s quite a quick read but it packs a punch, it’s definitely the kind of story that will having you thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading. This story is such a mesmerising one and I enjoyed every minute of it. Our main character Fay is an excellent protagonist, she’s strong willed and determined to reach her daughter – no matter the cost.

This beautiful retelling is a must read if you love whimsical fantasy stories and it has some absolutely stunning illustrations. If you’ve read the other books in this collection then you absolutely have to pick this one up. If you’ve not yet had the chance to read them they’re absolutely perfect for reading in the autumn and you can binge all three. I loved every second of this book and I can’t wait to see what Harris writes next.

Blog Tour: F.O.X.E.S – M. A. Bennett

Blog Tour: F.O.X.E.S – M. A. Bennett

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Series:
S.T.A.G.S. #3 (See my review of book one here!)
Release Date: August 6th 2020
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 388
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Greer has just recovered from her terrifying experience during the STAGS play. Was she really put on trial by the sinister Dark Order of the Grand Stag? Or was it purely her overheated imagination? The imprint of an ‘M’ for murderer that has appeared on her thumb, though, is puzzling but incomplete evidence . . .

Meanwhile Ty is staying on at Longcross Manor and Greer, Nel and Shafeen are increasingly worried for her safety. When Ty sends a cryptic message directing them to Cumberland Place, the de Warlencourts’ palatial home in London, they decide to risk a visit. There they meet Henry’s grieving parents, Rollo and Caro. Rollo is arrogant, entitled and not overly grieving. Caro, however, while superficially charming, is clearly pushed to the brink of madness by Henry’s death, insisting that Henry is still alive. Which is clearly impossible . . . but Greer has her own troubling doubts about Henry’s death which make it hard to dismiss Caro completely . . .

Can Greer, Shafeen and Nel work out what Rollo de Warlencourt is planning for his deadly Boxing Day Hunt at Longcross in time to save Ty – who has now gone silent? Or will history horribly repeat itself?

A thrilling, richly complex instalment in the STAGS series

Review

Copy of book cover - 2020-08-12T115512.600F.O.X.E.S is the third instalment in the S.T.A.G.S series. When I read the first book I hadn’t realised there was going to be more than one book. I picked up D.O.G.S and absolutely devoured it so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the third book in the series. The story picks up straight after the events of book two, following Greer, Shafeen and Nel as they continue to uncover the secrets behind The Dark Order of the Grand Stag. Determined to find out the truth, the visit Cumberland Place – the residence of Henry’s parents. There they find his mum Caro insisting that Henry is still alive and his Dad Rollo putting all his efforts into reinstating fox hunting. But is Henry really alive and will history repeat itself at Longcross?

I absolutely love this series and I’m so glad that we’re continuing to follow the same characters. Greer, Shafeen and Nel make a really brilliant group of protagonists and I really enjoyed watching them work together to uncover the twisted secrets behind the Order. The story is told from Greer’s perspective so there are plenty of film references as she narrates this gripping tale.

The story if full of twists and turns and is really fast paced. M. A. Bennett writes these short snappy chapter that have you immediately starting the next one. I often found myself sitting down to read a few pages and then still being there fifty pages later. F.O.X.E.S is a tense and thrilling read I definitely did not want it to end.

The book touches on a lot of themes, particularly class and grief. The story is an atmospheric one and M A Bennett has clearly done an exceptional amount of research for this series. Bennett has a brilliant writing style that keeps the reader hooked and I am so excited to see what the next instalment brings. If you haven’t had the chance to pick up D.O.G.S or F.O.X.E.S yet, these are the perfect summer books to get lost in.
4 Stars

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Book Review: The Turn of the Key – Ruth Ware

Book Review: The Turn of the Key – Ruth Ware

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Release Date: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 343
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was gifted a copy of this at Christmas
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

When she stumbles across the advert, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss: a live-in nanny position, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious ‘smart’ home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with a child dead and her in a cell awaiting trial for murder.

She knows she’s made mistakes. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Full of spellbinding menace, The Turn of the Key is a gripping modern-day haunted house thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Review

Copy of book cover (19)Ruth Ware is an author I’ve always wanted to read but hadn’t gotten around to picking up. The Turn of the Key caught my eye because it sounded so creepy and I had heard so many people raving about it. I ended up completely devouring this chilling book and I am definitely going to be picking up more from Ruth Ware.

The story follows a young woman who takes a job as a nanny in a remote home in the Scottish Highlands. Her employers are architects and their home is a smart home, with all aspects of life made easier by technology. The job seems perfect – intuitive home, beautiful location and an excellent salary. But when Rowan finds out that a string of nannies have left the role very suddenly, suspicions begin to be raised and Rowan quickly finds herself in the midst of a nightmare.

I loved everything about this book. It starts off with Rowan in the present day, recounting her story. Right from that very first chapter I was absolutely hooked and I got completely sucked into this story. Rowan was a brilliant protagonist and I was glued to the story that was unfolding. She makes for the perfect unreliable narrator and I was always questioning what was going on around her. The characters in this story are well created and fleshed out. The story is well paced, with the story becoming more and more fast paced as the tension continues to climb.

The Turn of the Key is full of twists and turns and had more than a few surprises that I didn’t see coming. It has a really brilliant sense of atmosphere, there were so many moments that sent a shiver up my spine. If you’re looking for one of those Gothic reads that will have you reading way past bedtime then this is definitely one to pick up. This has made me eager to try more from Ruth Ware and I can’t wait to check out some of her other books.
4 Stars