Thursday, September 29, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Majesty's Royal Coven, by Juno Dawson {ends 10/9}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Helena
It was only correct that Helena should have the best corner office in HMRC (Her Majesty’s Royal Coven). Double aspect with windows on two sides overlooking the redbrick and steel sprawl of Manchester. The Beetham Tower – still the tallest building for miles – gleamed in a hazy tangerine late-afternoon sun.

There was still plenty to clear from her desk before she could leave for the day: sign-off on repairs for the damage caused in the Smythe sting operation; check-in with Sandhya about prep for Solstice; a quick Zoom meeting with Sanne Visser, the notoriously – and perhaps ironically – frosty head of the International Global Warming Action Coven. But first, and most importantly, the Sullied Child. Her intercom buzzed. ‘Yes?’

‘Incoming teleport,’ her secretary said.

‘Thanks, Karen.’

The hairs on her arm stood on end and there was a familiar bonfire-night odour as her daughter’s particles started to swirl around the centre of the office. Her expression was sour. ‘I hate teleporting,’ she whined before she’d even fully formed.

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven may not be publicly acknowledged by the government, but everyone knows that the gifts witches have can benefit mundanes, as long as they don’t scare them too much in the process.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Her Majesty's Royal Coven, by Juno Dawson {ends 10/9}
At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls – Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle – took the oath to join Her Majesty's Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she's a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.

The book starts when the girls are just friends, scared of growing up, and more than a little nervous to soon join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven (HMRC). They’re the offspring of witches who are already members, and really don’t know any other path, but they do know it’s a lot of responsibility too.

The story then moves on to adulthood. While some of the original witches have chosen not to stay with HMRC, there has been a major war of the witchy variety. While the mundanes (non-witches) may have noticed a bit of it, most of the fighting and losses involved the witches. 

Overall, the characters were unique, memorable, and believable (at least if you love magical realism). I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy. The end was a fantastic cliffhanger and I need to know what happens next!

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley loves fall, Halloween, and witch books year-round! Check out a bit more of what she’s up to and the books she’s reading at her blog, SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Her Majesty's Royal Coven!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Sunday, October 9th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be notified via email the next day, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Her Majesty's Royal Coven, by Juno Dawson

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Evangeline's Heaven, by Jen Braaksma {ends 10/3}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“No,” she says, “I go in alone.”

Michael turns to her, again with that look of vexation. “That’s stupid, Evie,” he says.

Evangeline bristles with indignation. No, not stupid. Smart, cunning, strategic. They need her, so she’ll make the rules. She’ll ensure she gets the book — alone  and then she’ll flee. She has absolutely no intention of handing this most valuable text over to her archenemy. She’d be mad if she did. Assuming Gabriel and Michael are right, assuming this book truly is the Key to the Kingdom, she’s not going to let it disappear into the bowels of the Archangel vaults. Because she knows Gabriel will never return it to the Archives, no matter how hard the Cherubim protest. 

In his eyes, the book is a dangerous weapon, and Evangeline fears he will use it against her people, to destroy Commoners for good. She can’t let that happen. If her father can’t get the Key, the one thing that will win them this war, then she will.

What a fascinating telling of the fall of Lucifer. His daughter, Evangeline, gives her version of the events in Heaven leading to Lucifer’s challenge and defeat.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Evangeline's Heaven, by Jen Braaksma {ends 10/3}

War is ravaging the Seven Heavens. Lucifer and his Commoner supporters, the lowest class of angels, are rebelling against God’s plan to exile them to the new Earth. When Lucifer departs on a desperate war mission, he leaves his daughter, Evangeline, to defend their home in First Heaven. Fiercely loyal and trained to fight, Evangeline stands ready to do her father’s bidding.

But things change when Evangeline overhears the archangel Gabriel forming a plan to destroy Lucifer—because, as he tells his son, Michael, he believes Lucifer’s plan is to find the Key to the Kingdom and claim the power of God to control all the Heavens for eternity. Refusing to believe her father capable of such treachery, Evangeline sets off to alert her father.

As she battles through the Heavens, however, Evangeline is shocked to discover that what she believed she knew about her father might not be true after all. For the first time in her life, she begins to question whether or not her father’s motives are pure. With the fate of the Heavens hanging in the balance, she must decide who she’s going to be: her father’s daughter, or her own person.

Evangeline has been trained for battle, but her father, Lucifer, usually keeps her safe at home, asking her only to serve as his representative to the people while he is off leading his armies in the war. But Evangeline is soon on the run to find her father and initially, to warn him of attack from his enemies. As Evangeline fights her way through the different levels of Heaven to try and reach her father, she hears from many angels she trusts that not everything with her father is as it seems.

The story included excellent world-building, describing the different levels of Heaven and the different classes of angels who resided in each. The descriptions of the separate specific angels and their relationships to each other were also very helpful. Overall, I gave this book a high 3 out of 5 stars. While it could easily have turned a bit preachy with the Christianity background, the author did a wonderful job of presenting this as an interesting fantasy read.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, and aunt. In her spare time, she tries to post more reviews of books and life experiences at SweetlyBSquared.com.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Evangeline's Heaven!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Monday, October 3rd, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be notified the next day via email, and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Evangeline's Heaven, by Jen Braaksma

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Quick Pick Book Review: The Rewind, by Allison Winn Scotch

Quick Pick Book Review: The Rewind, by Allison Winn Scotch
  • Opening lines: Frankie Harriman took a long last look in the mirror on the back of the bathroom door of her decently appointed hotel room. The lighting was, as expected, quite grim, but even without the shadowing and the unflattering overtone of yellow, she startled herself. She fidgeted with the cuff of her oversize wool sweater, tried tucking it into the waist of her Levi's, then decided that made her look like she was trying too hard, so untucked it, but she still wasn't happy. She turned to the side and gave herself a final once-over. It would have to do. The rehearsal dinner invite had called for College Chic! and this was all she had: her old J.Crew fisherman sweater that she'd dug out of a box in the back of her closet in her Los Feliz apartment and her vintage Levi's, which she now bought at a used-clothes store on Fairfax, but she may just as well have been wearing the ones from 1989, the year they graduated. The last time she'd set foot on campus at Middleton University.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge fan of Allison Winn Scotch's books, and the synopsis sounded intriguing—I love books that involve reunions of a sort.
  • And what's this book about? Two exes wake up together with wedding bands on their fingers—and no idea how they got there. They have just one New Year’s Eve at the end of 1999 to figure it out in this big-hearted and nostalgic rom-com from New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch. 

    When college sweethearts Frankie and Ezra broke up before graduation, they vowed to never speak to each other again. Ten years later, on the eve of the new millennium, they find themselves back on their snowy, picturesque New England campus together for the first time for the wedding of mutual friends. Frankie’s on the rise as a music manager for the hottest bands of the late ’90s, and Ezra’s ready to propose to his girlfriend after the wedding. Everything is going to plan—they just have to avoid the chasm of emotions brought up when they inevitably come face to face.

    But when they wake up in bed next to each other the following morning with Ezra’s grandmother’s diamond on Frankie’s finger, they have zero memory of how they got there—or about any of the events that transpired the night before. Now Frankie and Ezra have to put aside old grievances in order to figure out what happened, what
    didn’t happen...and to ask themselves the most troubling question of all: what if they both got it wrong the first time around?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys "reunion" books as well, or cute rom-coms with a dash of drama.
  • Favorite paragraph: What Ezra Jones always needed was a plan. What Frankie Harriman always needed was a foil. They never could have worked. They were always a thunderstorm of impending doom.
  • Something to know: I haven't been reading a lot throughout the pandemic—as you may have noticed, my guest reviewer Becki has been doing the heavy lifting on this blog with her reviews—but this was the first book I've read that I wanted to keep reading ASAP to see how it ended.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. Now I want to see it made into a movie, too.
  • Overall rating: 5 stars out of 5.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon—it will be out on November 1st.

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