Mini-Reviews #30: Bookshops & Bonedust, Ruthless Vows & A Study in Drowning

Mini-Reviews is a blog series where I’ll be sharing mini reviews of the books I’ve been reading lately.  Each post will include 3 books I’ve recently read and will be grouped by genre (though we’re bound to get a hodgepodge post every once in a while!).  Let me know if you’ve read anything I’ve talked about or if you feel inspired to pick anything up after hearing my thoughts!  I also want to note that I’m attempting to do away with half stars this year and I’m going to use the official goodreads rating system which is based on enjoyment level (1 star = didn’t like it, 2 star = it was okay, 3 star = liked it, 4 star = really liked it, 5 star = it was amazing).

Bookshops & Bonedust (Legends & Lattes #0) – Legends & Lattes was one of my favorite books of 2022 so I was very highly anticipating Travis Baldree’s prequel novel set in the same world and still following Viv, the loveable orc barbarian, on an adventure that took place before she decided to open her own coffee shop in Thune.  In Bookshops & Bonedust, Viv has just suffered an injury while her adventuring party was chasing down a necromancer, and they force her to spend time in a cozy seaside town called Murk while she heals.  At first Viv is incredibly bored, but she meets the bookstore owner Fern who basically pushes a novel on her and turns Viv into a voracious reader.  She begins spending her time at the bookstore helping Fern vamp up her selection and decor in the hopes of attracting more patrons.  She also becomes friends with Maylee, the town baker, and Gallina, the dwarf we met in Legends & Lattes.  Bookshops & Bonedust lays the seeds in Viv’s mind for how her future could be if she were to retire from adventuring.  The Viv we meet in Bookshops has a totally different mindset than our L&L Viv and it’s fun to see her mindset transformation occur. I really enjoyed this installment in Travis Baldree’s cozy low stakes fantasy world, but it’s worth noting that I did enjoy book one more for two reasons.  The first being that I liked the supporting cast of characters better in L&L, and the second being that the story felt too similar to book one for me.  While it was fun to read and spend more time with Viv, I don’t think it added a lot to the series.  The one part that did strike a chord is the epilogue which is set after Legends & Lattes.  If you haven’t checked either of these out yet and you like the idea of a cozy fantasy novel, I would definitely recommend Travis’s books, however, I would read them in publication order otherwise the ending of Legends & Lattes will be spoiled for you in Bookshops & Bonedust.

Ruthless Vows by Rebecca Ross (Letters of Enchantment #2)  – ***Spoilers for Divine Rivals (Letters of Enchantment #1)*** Ruthless Vows, the concluding novel in Rebecca Ross’s Letters of Enchantment duology has definitely cemented this series as an all time favorite for me. This installment included everything I loved about the first book including the subtle magic, characters to die for, a heartwarming but tortured romance, an epic war between gods, and of course, magical typewriters.  At the end of the first book, Iris and Roman are split up after their incredibly sweet wedding to each other amid the war.  Dacre heals Roman’s wounds with the alterior motive of wanting him to write in his favor, and Iris returns to Oath and to her job at the paper, heartbroken and alone.  I should have known that the main characters would be apart for a good chunk of the book, and while it did allow the Allouette’s to come back into play, I wish we could’ve had more page time with them together.  Though I did really love the way everything played out with Dacre and Enva, and the resolution for Oath.  Ruthless Vows was just as whimsical and enchanting as Divine Rivals (which was one of my very favorite books of 2023)!  I’m so impressed with this series as whole. As I mentioned in my review of book one, the story tries to do so much and yet, it completely succeeds.  I truly believe only an experienced writer could have pulled this story off and Rebecca just nailed it from start to finish.  I will definitely be picking up anything else Rebecca writes, and I’m particularly excited to check out her Songs of Cadence series which is an adult fantasy duology.

A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid – And now, for one of my most disappointing reads of last year, A Study in Drowning.  I had the highest of hopes for this dark academia YA fantasy novel about a young girl at an architecture college who gets the opportunity to redesign her favorite author’s crumbling estate, Hireath Manor.  When Effy arrives she finds another student, Preston, a literature major who despises the author and is only there out of the determination to prove he is a fraud.  As the two rivals work together, they uncover clues about the author’s legacy and his connection to the Fairy King, who his most famous work is about.  While dark academia and fairies sound like a recipe for success, this book just did not work for me.  It read incredibly young, even for a YA novel, but my biggest complaint is that I was bored throughout the whole book.  I committed to finishing it because of how much I had been anticipating it, but it was a major slog.  I didn’t feel connected to either character and I wasn’t invested in either story or its resolution.  While I did appreciate the overall message of the book, this one was just not for me. I wish I hadn’t gone in with such high expectations, because it was a huge letdown.

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