Unpopular Opinions: A Discussion of Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Join us for a discussion of book boyfriends, glowing reviews, and our extremely unpopular opinion of Caraval by Stephanie Garber!

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read Caraval.

Thank you so much for tuning in! We really hope that you enjoyed our most recent episode! Like we said in the episode, not everyone likes everything. We are very aware that our opinion of Caraval is a bit of a black sheep. That said, we would love to hear what you thought! Did we miss something? Let us know! Tell us why you loved it or why you hated it! We would love to have a discussion.

If you are interested in participating in the discussion that is already happeneing in the Shelfie Book Club you can click here. We’d love to hear what you have to say.

If you are interested in voting on our March book please check out the book club or The Shelfie Showdown! These choice will be announced in our next episode!

Don’t forget to tune in next time to hear what we thought of Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones!

Check out the other books featured in this episode:

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Our Favorite YA Ships!

With Valentines Day fast approaching, I thought I’d take some time to celebrate my favorite relationships in Yong Adult Fiction. Now, not all of the ships we cheer for are based in reality and some have already sunk, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate them, right? So, sit back and relax as I tell you who I want to have a happily ever after and why.

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I feel a bit like I am cheating here, since I know very few people who don’t adore this relationship. Who can ignore those steamy chapters? But, for me it’s less about the sexy times and more about how supportive Feyre and Rhysand are of each other. They are both suffering in the wake of Amarantha and instead of struggling alone they look to each other for encouragement. Plus, how can you ignore the way he says “Feyre Darling.” Someone should really talk to me that way.

“Did you enjoy the sight of me kneeling before you?”

Yes. So much yes!

I should also point out that I was neither a Tamlin or Rhysand fan going into A Court of Mist and Fury. I was firmly on Team Lucien. That ship has sailed, however. And I reserve judgement on Lucien + Elain until after I have read A Court of Wings and Ruin.

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I am sorry to all of you Celaena + Dorian / Celaena + Chaol shippers, but Aelin + Rowan reigns supreme. Celaena’s character progression requires her to outgrow both of her previous lovers. That is not to say that I don’t love them as individual characters, because I do. But when Rowan showed up, I just knew. The fact that he is a sexy Fae Prince doesn’t hurt matters, but what I loved most about him was his desire to push Aelin. She has always needed someone to challenge her to become the woman she could be and he did a remarkable job of that. He also needed her to help him stop living in the past and punishing himself for something that was not his fault. As a pair they just work extremely well together. More so than Aelin and any of her other partners. Dorian was too young and untested, but was able to remind her what it feels like to be happy. Chaol was stability she needed. Safety, but when it came time to push her to become Aelin, he fell short. Props to Sarah J Maas for showing us a realistic representation of how relationships develop!   Now give me more Rowaelin!

He shifted his arm so he could brush her hair back. His fingers lingered along her jaw. “You make me want to live, too, Aelin Galathynius,” he said. “Not exist—but live.”

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Unlike the relationships mentioned above, Kaz + Inej are not outwardly affectionate. It is clear early on in Six of crows that they have feelings for each other, and those feelings develop into Crooked Kingdom. So, if you are looking for sexy times, pick up A Court of Thorns and Roses and have a blast. If you are looking for a well developed, slow building romance paired with amazing character development, Kaz + Inej are for you. Similar to Feyre and Rhysand, Kaz and Inej have both suffered through horrible traumas in this lives and have mended themselves as best they can. Throughout the books they both come to realize how they feel for the other and struggles to find the right way to address it or if they will address it at all. This is a slow burn relationship where the smallest touch will give you butterflies in your tummy. Well, at least it did for me. If you are looking for something a bit more forward, Nina and Matthias (from the same series) may be more your speed. But I just adored this pair!

“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”

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Pete and Gemma are my only ship that comes from a Contemporary novel. Everything else is Fantasy or Historical Fiction (which is most of what I read) and therefor the relationships, while extremely romantic, are not very realistic. Replica, on the other hand, takes places in present day. Sure, it deals with clones, but it also addresses the ups and downs of being a teenager. And that is what I love about this relationship. Pete and Gemma are just normal teenage kids. It feels real, and it is just downright adorable from the start. Gemma calls Pete “Perv” because the mean kids spread rumors about him. It’s awkward, adorable, and just downright perfect. The same can’t be said for the romance mirrored in Lyra’s half of the book. 72 doesn’t feel like a fully fleshed out character and and was my least favorite part of the novel. But, I won’t get into that. Instead I will think about Pete and him riding to the rescue in his mom’s purple minivan.

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And I Darken has an odd love triangle of sorts. Lada, the main character, is infatuated with her childhood friend (and Sultan) Mehmed. The hitch in this is that her younger brother Radu is in love Mehmed. The book focuses more on Lada’s relationship with the young Sultan than Radu’s. Which makes sense as Lada is the main character. That said, I am Team Radu. Lada likes the idea of Mehmed but cannot allow herself to truly love him because of what it would cost her. Radu, on the other hand, would be executed if anyone found out about his feelings and he is still all in. Mehmed, is of course, in love with Lada and not Radu. So, this ship is likely all in my head and probably won’t every come true on paper. Which is sad because I think social schemer Radu is a way better match for Mehmed than hot headed and out of control Lada. All we can do now is wait and see. The book ended with Lada leaving Mehmed with Radu. So, maybe I will get what I want. But, more than likely my ship will sink to bottom of the ocean with all of the Chaol + Celeana ships.

“We cannot always have what we want, no matter how much we want it.”

Which ships are your favorites? Who are you cheering for? Did your favorite character end up with the wrong person? We want to hear all about your ships in the comments!

- The Butcher (1)

Of Myths and Monsters: A Review of Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh


Title:
 Fear the Drowning Deep
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date:  October 11th, 2016
Hardback: 304 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

“Nothing from the ocean is meant to survive on land forever.”

While not the horror novel it was billed to be, Fear the Drowning Deep nevertheless hit so many high notes with me that I wasn’t bothered by the lack of fear factor. The synopsis suggests strong notes of witchery and mysterious, murderous sea creatures, and quite honestly, the book doesn’t really deliver on those suggestions. What we get in Fear the Drowning Deep is a subtly eerie take on myths of the sea, one that is more evocative of historical fantasy than horror, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I want to make it clear upfront that the “witch’s apprentice Bridley” line from the blurbs is very much misleading. The witch, Morag, is more akin to a village herbalist, and Bridley isn’t her apprentice- she’s her housekeeper. If you’re looking for a book with a high magic/horror level, this likely isn’t the book for you. I wasn’t bothered by the lack of witchiness, personally. We do see several uses of low-magic in herbs, charms, and superstition-driven action, and for me those nods were enough. What I enjoyed most was how Marsh creates a palpable presence of dread within Drowning’s pages. The overall feel of the fishing village and its struggles is very real, and the fear that rises within the townsfolk as more and more of their number disappear believable. Bridley, as the only person who seems to notice the fantastical happenings surrounding their town, reads as a mostly sympathetic character who experiences more than a little growth from start to finish.

The book does have some problems, the most notable of which is the severe case of insta-love between Bridley and the amnesic foreigner Finn, who washed up on their stretch of beach. Insta-love is one of my bigger pet peeves, and while we are given a magical reason for it a bit late in the story, it was still a plot point that could easily have been left out of the final draft. It felt a bit as if the author thought there should be a romance, and so she included one, even though it wasn’t the best thing for the narrative. Finn is not a bad character, mind; he has a compelling personality, brings a rather unique perspective to the story, and his inclusion is necessary to the plot advancement. I just don’t feel that he fit as a love interest.

Fear the Drowning Deep is one of those books I enjoyed really for no other reason than it hit upon several areas that are happy buttons for me. Marsh deals with the superstitions surrounding the village “witch” in a well-researched manner, even providing accurate properties for the herbs and trinkets that Bridley gathers for Morag. The primary myths addressed in Drowning, that of the Glashtin, the shapeshifting waterhorse, and of the Fossegrim, the ghostly fiddler on the waves whose music calls a new bride to be drowned every night, are very well portrayed. The descriptions of the fossegrim in particular were very well done, and some of the more frightening in the book. The entire time I was reading this story, I had SJ Tucker’s “Glashtyn Shanty” running through my head- the mood of which, by the way, fits Drowning perfectly. Books that bring their own soundtracks unbidden to mind, are, usually, a success for me.

I would highly recommend Fear the Drowning Deep if you’re a fan of Gaelic myths and subtle horror, or are looking for a light read with an engaging setting. Despite its flaws, and the rather scattered marketing, I found it a fun and enjoyable read. This one will be going on my reread shelf, for sure.

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Trope University: A Review of Eerie by C.M. McCoy

28252234Title: Eerie
Author: C.M. McCoy
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Publication Date:  December 19th, 2015
Paperback: 434 Pages
Source: Author

Hailey Hartley has just enrolled in the world’s premier supernatural university. It’s a school she’s never heard of, located in a town called The Middle of Nowhere, and run by a creature that’s not supposed to exist. But at least she got a scholarship…

Hailey’s dreams have always been, well…vivid. As in monsters from her nightmares follow her into her waking life vivid. When her big sister goes missing, eighteen-year-old Hailey finds only one place offers her answers–a paranormal university in Alaska. There, she studies the science of the supernatural and must learn to live with a roommate from Hell, survive her otherworldly classes, and hope the only creature who can save her from the evil immortal who took her sister doesn’t decide to kill her himself.  

“Those who look for a reason to fear will find one, and those without reason will follow.”

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Eerie’s premise promises a paranormal thriller-cum-romance, complete with a murdered sibling, a cursed heroine, and an enigmatic love interest. Recent high school graduate Hailey Hartley finds herself contending with the murder of her sister Holly, the knowledge that one of her best friends is practically immortal, and that the literal man of her dreams is all too real, all while attending a university in Alaska that focus on ParaScience. While doing so, she discovers that she has an affinity for ghosts, and befriends a banshee from Hell- who happens to be her roommate

Eerie could be perhaps said to deliver on its promises, if one were a thirteen-fifteen year old girl intent on devouring every Twilight-esque paranormal clone on the shelves. Unfortunately, I found it to fall more than a little short on several counts. While not a thirteen-fifteen year old, I do have a certain fondness for paranormal romance fluff. I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Eerie to be a paragon of the genre; however, I expected, after seeing the reviews and press, to at least find it a decent bit of brain candy. Instead, I found myself so angry at the travesty that unfolds within its pages, that I couldn’t even call it a mindless read.

The book starts off on poor footing. Hailey, and her plot device sister Holly, have the exact same voice. During the few pages in which we see them interacting, I had to keep stopping to remind myself of which sister was which. While I understand that Holly existed only as a plot device, when she dies (quite horribly, I must add), we have no reason to be invested in her death. Hailey is, certainly distraught… except, she isn’t. Instead she has the inner strength and fortitude to soldier through and personally try to poke about Holly’s murder. The author gives us no reason to care about Holly’s death other than Hailey’s pain, and that pain is neither believable, nor compelling.

Also not believable is how nonchalantly Hailey takes the continual reveals of the supernatural within her life. The general world of Eerie does not seem to be one where monsters, ghosts, and magics are commonplace- yet Hailey never bats an eye at an offer of a scholarship to a “ParaScience” university in Alaska. Or that her “uncles” from Ireland made it across the ocean in less than a night. Or that Fin, who worked at her family’s bar, was actually an immortal in service to an Envoy. I could go on, but there are so many of these incongruities that I could fill up a book with them. Oh wait….

Bear Town University, where Hailey goes off to college, attempts to be the Hogwarts of the paranormal. It would more aptly be named the University of Ghostbuster Tropes. The only positive to getting to the university is that here, we meet the one character I found at all interesting. Unfortunately, what could have been a rather different and engaging concept, becomes yet another wooden prop for the main character. Giselle, Hailey’s roommate, is a banshee- from Hell. She cries cobwebs, is rude and hates everyone, and is slowly being redeemed by the Magic of Hailey’s Friendship.

At Bear Town, we also properly meet Asher, the Envoy of Hailey’s dreams- who, by the way, exemplifies every warning sign of an abuser. Asher takes a very possessive and demeaning approach to Hailey; if she does not do what he wants, he hurts her. He manipulates Fin into hurting her, so that she will stop caring about Fin. He threatens to kill people who so much as speak to her crossly. But of course, Asher only does all of this because the Envoys don’t understand emotions. In fact, emotions are anathema to their kind; any Envoy caught displaying them is to be put to death. But he loves her so much, Asher will risk death for her, of course.

Eerie presents us trope within trope within trope, none of it in any sort of compelling manner. The main character is unsympathetic and wooden. The love interests represent the extreme examples of the worse sorts of partners. The setting and side characters are nothing but props for Hailey to bounce off. The villain of the story- because yes, we do have a villain- is so absolutely forgettable flat that I don’t even remember his name. It was, from start to finish, a disappointment of epic proportions. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

 

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The Fantasy Formula: A Review of Frostblood by Elly Blake

27827203Title: Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)
Author: Elly Blake
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  January 10th, 2017 
Hardcover: 367 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable, and she’s not sure she’s willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king’s tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything.

“You don’t know the effect your words have on me, Lady Firebrand. It took years to build up this ice. You will melt it and then I will be broken.” 

Frostblood was a constant struggle with Déjà vu. At every turn, I was called back to a different YA Fantasy. The pacing reminded me of Stealing Snow, the powers smacked of Red Queen, and the “twist” called back to Snow Like Ashes. There is nothing about this fast-paced Fantasy that hasn’t been explored before. I know that is not an uncommon occurrence in the genre. However, I do expect these ideas to be reinterpreted into something original. Blake fails to do that in Frostblood. If you have been keeping up with recent releases, it is safe to say that you have read this book before. More than once.

The tale follows Ruby, a fire mage of sorts, who is hunted for her powers. She is fierce, stubborn, and possesses quite the temper. As the book develops she remains largely the same. I was hoping to see some development from inept chosen one to powerful warrior. The author does assert this change; however, Ruby’s actions and dialogue fail to reflect it.

Brooding and secretive love interest, Arcus, suffers a similar fate. Had the author been a bit more delicate with her foreshadowing, I might have been interested in his past. Sadly, I had figured out his entire life story by chapter four. This, of course, also meant that I had figured out the “twist” as well. That left me very little motivation to finish the book, except to see if I was right. Spoiler alert: I was.

I found the world to be less developed than the characters. The author mentions countries and conflicts, but glosses over them. Leaving the reader to fill in the blanks with the setting. The religions were given a bit more attention, through childhood stories and prophecy, making the cultures feel more realistic than the environment.

The story in Frostblood is straightforward and wraps up neatly at the end of the book. With this being the first in a trilogy, I am curious to know what the author will explore in the sequels. Though, probably not curious enough to pick up the sequel in September.

If you are looking for a fast Fantasy read and are not picky this book might be for you, but do not expect to find vivid settings of well-developed characters here. Frostblood is an easy and predictable YA romp that focuses more on the romance than the details.

 

- The Butcher (1)

 

Setting the Bar: A Discussion of Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

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The moment you have all been waiting for is finally here! Empire of Storms is out! Tune in to this extra long episode to hear Caitlin and Cynthia lament the fact that they have to wait a year for Sarah J Maas’s epic conclusion to the Throne of Glass series. Warning: Contains high levels of fangirling.

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read Empire of Storms. Actually, expect spoilers for the entire Throne of Glass series.

Thank you so much for tuning in! We hope you enjoyed our newest episode. We would apologize for it being longer than normal, but it’s a miracle that we managed to keep it under two hours. There is just so much to SQUEE over! We’d love to hear what you thought about this installment in the Throne of Glass series! Did you love it? Did you hate it? Do you love Rowan? Miss Chaol? Share your thoughts in the comments below! We’d love nothing more than to discuss this book with you guys. Please share!

Tune in next time to hear what we thought of Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the books mentioned in this episode!

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Fantastic Finale: An Advance Review of The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

25944798Title: The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date:  August 2nd, 2016
Kindle Edition: 688 Pages
Source: Netgalley

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous – what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson’s combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

“I have no qualms about cutting out your tongue, Your Eminence. In fact, after all the years I had to endure your condemning lectures, it would give me the greatest pleasure, so I would advise you hold your tongue while you still possess one.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The synopsis for this book is short and to the point. It spoils nothing, instead leaving it all to the reader’s imagination. Where is Kaden? What happened to Lia and Rafe? Is the Komizar dead? Don’t worry. I’m not going to answer those questions for you. This review will be as spoiler free as I can manage. After all, I want people to experience this book the same way I did: on the edge of my seat.

Continue reading “Fantastic Finale: An Advance Review of The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson”

Happy Accident: An Advance Review of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.inddTitle: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Contemporary / Romance
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 1st, 2016
Hardcover: 344 Pages
Source: Barnes & Noble B-Fest

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

“Human beings are not reasonable creatures. Instead of being ruled by logic, we are ruled by emotions. The world would be a happier place if the opposite were true. For example, based on a single phone call, I have begun to hope for a miracle.

I don’t even believe in God.”

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher as prize for winning the trivia blast at B-Fest. The opinions in this review are mine and mine alone.

The Sun is Also a Star was not on my radar for 2016. I had heard of it, but it didn’t catch my eye. Sure, the synopsis is adorable and the cover is gorgeous, but I would not have purchased this book for myself. I’m not really one for contemporary young adult novels; it’s hard for me to relate to the life of a high school student. I mean, my ten year reunion is next month. I’ve aged out.

It actually took some serious convincing to get me to go to B-Fest at all. I expected that a 27-year-old blogger would stand out like a sore thumb. But I ignored the voice in the back of my head and went anyway. I am so glad I did. If I hadn’t, I am sure that I would never have read this remarkable book.

Continue reading “Happy Accident: An Advance Review of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon”

Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman

29962851Title: Empire of Dust (Blood of Gods and Royals #2)
Author: Eleanor Herman
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 432 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In Macedon, war rises like smoke, forbidden romance blooms and ancient magic tempered with rage threatens to turn an empire to dust.

After winning his first battle, Prince Alexander fights to become the ruler his kingdom demands — but the line between leader and tyrant blurs with each new threat.

Meanwhile, Hephaestion, cast aside by Alexander for killing the wrong man, must conceal the devastating secret of a divine prophecy from Katerina even as the two of them are thrust together on a dangerous mission to Egypt.

The warrior, Jacob, determined to forget his first love, vows to eradicate the ancient Blood Magics and believes that royal prisoner Cynane holds the key to Macedon’s undoing.

And in chains, the Persian princess Zofia still longs to find the Spirit Eaters, but first must grapple with the secrets of her handsome — and deadly — captor.

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman entwines the real scandals of ancient history with epic fantasy in the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

“We are not Persians, Alexander, too cowed by the whip of the Great King to utter a word or think a single thought he might disapprove of. You would grow to despise your own people if they were like that. When you possess power over those whose lives, whose minds, you do not value, all you will have… is an empire of dust.”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I did not write a review of Legacy of Kings. It was such a letdown that I could not articulate my exact feelings on the book. Looking back, it was shock. I was baffled at how disappointed I was. Was it possible for a book about a legendary conqueror to be so very boring? While waiting for Empire of Dust, I convinced myself the first book was just the intro. I couldn’t pass any judgement until I had read the sequel. So, when I saw it pop up on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist. It had to be better, right? Actually, yes. It is better. Sadly, it was not better by much.

Continue reading “Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman”

A Horse by Any Other Name: A Discussion of My Lady Jane

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And we have another podcast under our belt! Tune in and listen to us rant about Historical Fiction, Horses, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read My Lady Jane.

Don’t forget to let us know how you feel about My Lady Jane! We’d love to hear your opinions, even if you don’t agree with us! Especially if you don’t agree with us! Let us know what you thought in the comments!

Oh and don’t forget to check out the other books mentioned in our podcast!

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