Zack Reads: Weekly Wrap Up, October 25th to 31st

This week (October 25th to 31st) was a pretty messy one for me. A family member had a big health scare, I had two college papers due, and I had a lot on my plate overall. I reached for a few more heart warming books this week to compensate. So lets find out what I read (and recommend) this week!

Wed to the Barbarian (Barbarian Duet #1) by Keira Andrews

Wed to the Barbarian (Barbarian Duet Book 1) by [Keira Andrews]

Page count: 320 (Kindle)

Genre: High fantasy romance

Jem is the sheltered youngest Prince of Neuvella, who would much rather care for orphaned birds and read about the adventures of the courageous but lusty heroine in his favourite novels. Unfortunately, he is surprised by an arranged marriage with the handsome but brutish Cador, son of the chief of Ergh – a strange land that has been isolated from the other kingdoms for centuries.

Keira Andrews is a new author to me, even though she has published dozens of books she just never came across my radar. It appears to be her debut into true fantasy. She does have fairy tale retellings and a paranormal shifter series, but Wed to the Barbarian has a very different tone that draws more from high fantasy.

I’ll be honest, the cover and title gave me big time Conan the Barbarian vibes and I was a little worried it would be all sword & sorcery sex and violence and no substance. However, Andrews really surprised me. There is emotional depth, political subterfuge and some really hard emotional hits.

By the end of Wed to the Barbarian, I was really rooting for Jem and his growth into a badass. His character growth is one of the best parts of this book.

Forewarning, this book ends on a cliffhanger, but the series is planned to be a HEA as far as I’m aware.

Wed to the Barbarian on Amazon | Goodreads | Storygraph

Night Prince by Felice Stevens

Night Prince by [Felice Stevens]

Page count: 290 pages (kindle)

Genre: Paranormal romance (vampires)

Massimo D’Alba was banished from his home, the magical kingdom of the Fold, through the machinations of his power hungry brother. He has lived for centuries among humans. A chance encounter sets him in the path of Damion Avery, a down on his luck New Yorker who falls into the job of Massimo’s personal assistant. However, duty soon calls on Massimo to return and save his kingdom – leaving him forced to decide between his burgeoning romance with Damion and his duty.

Night Prince comes from Lambda Literary Award winning author Felice Stevens (won for The Ghost and Charlie Muir). I have not read a Stevens book before, and most of her books are contemporary romance. However, Night Prince is a foray deep into paranormal romance’s most well tread territory – Vampires.

Night Prince is a one off, self contained story, not part of a series. While by no means a let down, I felt that Night Prince struggled in one key area. Things tended to happen rather suddenly, and escalate at break neck speed, followed by long periods of quiet. I was often thrown by how quickly characters changed directions, some supernatural force revealed itself, or other twists took place. It also felt like several later plot points existed just to fix mistakes that the author had already committed to.

I ultimately enjoyed Night Prince, but it didn’t leave me particularly satisfied. Rather like an okay piece of cake. If I’m hungry, I might get another slice, but I’m not thinking of it long after its gone.

Night Prince on Amazon | GoodReads | StoryGraph

Poisonwood (Poisonwood & Lyric #1) by Sam Burns & W.M Fawkes

Poisonwood (Poisonwood & Lyric Book 1) by [Sam Burns, W.M. Fawkes]

Page count: 107 (Kindle)

Genre: Paranormal romance

Jasper Jones is an incubus who won’t feed on people, burdened by guilt that humans fall for his charms against their will. Caleb is a grumpy bear shifter who doesn’t like people, and moved into the Poisonwood Forest to get away from the crowds. When Jasper almost kills himself with a half-cocked cure to his problem, he is saved by Caleb, and nursed back to health.

Poisonwood is the first in a series from Sam Burns and W.M Fawkes, both veteran paranormal romance authors. I’ve previously enjoyed Black Moon, which is another collaboration between both authors, so I went in hopeful.

Poisonwood didn’t disappoint me. Like their other collaborations, Poisonwood is a fairly low stakes romance, and even when the stakes rise they generally don’t feel particularly risky. There is a lot of cuteness, romantic gestures involving food (another staple of their work) and some lovable side characters.

It is a short book (107 pages on Amazon), and didn’t feel like the characters really got enough time to really flesh them out, and there were probably too many plot points running simultaneously for such a short book. But overall, a fun light read. The sequel, Wyrmwood, is coming out next month.

Poisonwood on Amazon | GoodReads | StoryGraph

Ghost of Lies (Medium Trouble #1) by Alice Winters

Ghost of Lies (Medium Trouble Book 1) by [Alice Winters]

Page count: 415 (Kindle)

Genre: Paranormal romance (physics)

Hiro was born with the ability to see the dead. It brought more bad than good until his brother was murdered, leaving Hiro able to communicate with his ghost. Unfortunately, Detective Maddox Booker, the lead on the case involving his brother’s death, is an asshole and doesn’t believe in ghosts. It doesn’t stop Hiro trying to solve the murder as the body count continues to climb.

Alice Winters is royalty among MM romance authors, with a huge swath of successful series since she started publishing in 2019 – most popular probably being the Hitman’s Guide series. Ghost of Lies is the first in a new series, Medium Trouble.

I’ve both enjoyed and DNF her books previously, usually because I wasn’t in the mood for comedy (which Alice is great at writing) when I tried to pick one up. However, I really did enjoy Ghost of Lies. Hiro and Maddox had great chemistry, Hiro was a stubborn brat while also being lovable, and Maddox’s soft insides came to shine later on. I also loved the diverse supporting cast, many of them ghosts.

My biggest gripe is the plot. There were a few twists that weren’t just unexpected – they left me confused and flipping back a few pages to work out what I’d missed. The ultimate conclusion left me scratching my head. I enjoyed the characters, chemistry and mystery – but feel like the ending was just too fast without enough groundwork being laid for the killers identity. Maybe its just me, but half the fun in a murder mystery is trying to puzzle the killers identity out based on the clues, and that simply didn’t feel possible here.

Don’t let that put you off enjoying Winters particular brand of humour and a great romance story though. My gripes are far from a book spoiling issue.

Ghost of Lies on Amazon | GoodReads | StoryGraph

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