ARC REVIEW: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves – Meg Long

ARC provided by Wednesday Books.

Sled racing, a frozen planet, and wolves? I don’t believe there’s another book out there as perfectly tailored to my wants and needs as Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves. I’ve made it very clear in the past that if the title says “wolves” or “wolf” there is a one hundred percent chance of me reading it and this was no exception. I was so excited for a story about the bond between a wolf and girl, especially one that features sled racing (I mean, I named my husky Balto for crying out loud).

The worldbuilding is definitely the book’s strong point. The author did an amazing job creating a setting that was both believable and imaginative. The vivid descriptions easily bring to mind images of an inhospitable frozen planet and the feel of the sharp sting of cold winds on your face. It was so easy to feel transported into the story while reading. The entirety of the setting of Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves was detailed, well thought out, and excellently written.

I was truly expecting to love everything and anything about this book, but the pacing of the story needed some work. The actual sled race doesn’t happen until well past the halfway mark. The beginning half of the story spent way too long setting up for the events of the second half and I was getting frustrated. I felt like the same plot line was reused multiple times: Sena angers her boss, Sena runs away from her boss, Sena has to go back because she needs something–rinse and repeat until the race begins. My expectations of the story were hoping for a book that spent a majority of time following Sena and Iska during the sled race as they fought for survival in the deadly elements of their world.

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is a debut that I still highly recommend, despite my personal shortcomings. The worldbuilding and atmosphere of the novel is phenomenally written and who can resist a book about the bond between a wolf and girl and a deadly sled race?

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ½

BOOK REVIEW: The Simple Wild – K.A. Tucker

Somehow I was led to believe that The Simple Wild was a cute hate-to-love romcom about a city girl moving to the middle of nowhere and falling for the grumpy small town love interest similar to It Happened One Summer. While that pretty much sums up the romantic subplot, this book is so much more than that. The Simple Wild was an emotional, poignant, heart-wrenching story that took me completely by surprise. I honestly could not tell you the last time I cried this hard reading a book.

It’s refreshing to read a hate-to-love story that actually encompasses that hate aspect. And I say that because I really, really hated the love interest, Jonah, for the good beginning of the book. It took a really long time for me to warm up to him (and to be honest there are still some aspects about him I’m not a fan of; mainly how he speaks about women who enjoy dressing up and wearing makeup), so I can easily imagine how Calla must have been feeling. The romance is slow-burn in the best sense, because it wasn’t until halfway through the book that Calla (and myself) began to change her mind about him.

I know this may be hard to believe, but the romance wasn’t even my favorite part about the book. The Simple Wild really touches on families, especially forming ties with estranged parents and the theme of regrets and forgiveness. Following Calla and Wren’s journey in learning about one another and recreating their father/daughter bond after so many years of not speaking was the best part of this story. The way their relationship was written was absolutely beautiful.

The story also places an importance on found families and community. Like Calla, I’m a city girl through and through. The thought of living someplace as remote as Bangor, Alaska makes me break out in hives. But I’ll be damned if K.A. Tucker didn’t do a phenomenal job showing a different side to small, rural towns and how tight-knit such communities are. Before reading this I was unfamiliar with Alaskan bush pilots and their roles but the author did a great job showing their importance to the remote communities and villages of Alaska.

This book simply had no reason to be this good and cause me this much emotional pain. My heart was physically aching at some parts. I was expecting a light-hearted romcom with some good angst between the protagonist and love interest, and instead I was given a book that was so much more than that. The Simple Wild was one of the best books I’ve read this year and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a beautiful story about love, families, community, and forgiveness.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

ARC REVIEW: Lakesedge – Lyndall Clipstone

ARC provided by Henry Holt and Co. through NetGalley.

Lakesedge is the latest release in this year’s trend of dark, gothic fantasy stories featuring monster boys and magic. There was a lot to like about this book: the atmospheric setting, the vivid writing, the sibling relationship and found family.

The story follows Violeta, who is fiercely protective of her brother, Arien. Arien is plagued by a dark, dangerous magic that brings nightmares to life and Leta does whatever she can to keep him safe. The bond between them was one of the best parts of the book. The sibling love between them was beautifully written and fit in perfectly with the book’s theme of family–both blood and found. I also really loved the bonds that formed between Leta, Arien, Rowan, Clover, and Florence at Lakesedge. Each of them have their own insecurities and feelings of not belonging, and yet they all fit together.

The writing was strong and did a great job invoking the gothic vibes and atmospheric setting. The magical elements were both intriguing and eerie. I did feel a sense of disconnection with the story, however, which is why I didn’t rate it higher. I wanted to absolutely love this, but it just felt like there was a spark missing.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ½

BOOK REVIEW: A Fate of Wrath & Flame – K.A. Tucker

I’m officially casting A Fate of Wrath & Flame as my biggest surprise of the year because, wow, I was not expecting this book at all! K.A. Tucker is an author whose been on my radar for her contemporary romance novels (which I haven’t quite gotten to yet despite their high praise) so curiosity (and all the amazing reviews) got the best of me when I saw this and decided to give it a shot. Let me just say that A Fate of Wrath & Flame has everything you could want in a new adult fantasy book!

The enemies-to-lovers, slow-burn angsty romance between the main character and the love interest and their warring countries reminded me of The Bridge Kingdom, meanwhile the magic and vampiric elements of the world were reminiscent of reading From Blood and Ash. It’s hard not to compare this to FBAA as there are a good amount of similarities. But while I love JLA, there’s no question that FBAA leaves a lot to be desired regarding the worldbuilding and protagonist. The worldbuilding here is incredible. Honestly, one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Everything came together so nicely and organically within the descriptions. I was able to fully understand the politics, the magic system, and the history of the world without getting pages of info dumps. 

There were times where I felt like I didn’t know what was going on plot-wise, but only because the protagonist, Romeria, also had no idea what the hell was happening (understandably, given her circumstances). The feelings of confusion resolved over the course of the book as both myself and Romeria became privy to important pieces of information. And speaking of Romeria, I absolutely loved her character! She was resourceful, courageous, and fierce. Her connection with Zander was palpable and the angsty romance that develops was so freaking amazing. I’m a sucker for a good slow-burn but add some hate-to-love into the mix and we have ourselves a winning combination!

There’s a lot to enjoy in A Fate of Wrath & Flame. The characters, the worldbuilding, the plot. Everything about the book felt extremely well-written, intriguing, and fresh. I’m aching to get my hands on the next book!

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ½

ARC REVIEW: All of Us Villains – Christine Lynn Herman & Amanda Foody

ARC provided by Tor Teen through NetGalley.

For a book marketed as a bloodier The Hunger Games, it was really lacking in the maiming and killing.

The premise of All of Us Villains is good. I was captivated by the synopsis and the magical tournament aspect and all that it entails was really intriguing. I kept seeing reviews calling this dark and bloody, but I think we read different books? None of the characters acted ruthless or unapologetically maniacal enough to be considered villains like the title suggests. I also struggled with the multiple POVs, most likely because I wasn’t invested in any of the characters other than Alistair.

The pacing felt off as well. It started out pretty slow and the action doesn’t really pick up until the tournament actually begins…which is almost halfway through the book. Then once the action started, it felt like the pacing and plot were moving too fast.

All in all, I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t this. I love both these authors so I was really disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this.

⭐️ ⭐️