The First Kiss by Julia Quinn

As always, this is a seriously sweet and cute novella. Quinn manages to infuse all of her works with a great sense of humour and love. Her wittiness and ability to make even the most undesirable of situations feel completely sweet and hopeful… just gorgeous. In this story, a girl grieving for her dead brother and his fortune hunter best friend are thrown into each others’ lives and the realisation that maybe Harry is still working from beyond the grave. Or at least, that’s kind of how it felt to me…

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Tattercoats by Midori Snyder

This is one of those retellings that is reminiscent of a number of fairy tales that I’ve read. Which was a nice journey. It’s definitely a fairy tale / retelling that I have always enjoyed, so I was excited to read this. And, boy, I wasn’t disappointed by this retelling. Not only was it a great fantasy retelling, but it was also a great tale about rediscovering your love and your life after that initial honeymoon period is over… something that I think is often overlooked in many stories we read.

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Grindstone by Stephen Graham Jones

This was a seriously creepy story. I always love stories which feature the point of view of the villain. But, normally there is kind of a moment of understanding. If not total acceptance of the character, then at least, an understanding what drives the person who commits a crime. This didn’t have that. The villain / narrator was just horrible and creepy and really, really not okay.

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The Light That Passes Through You by Conrad Williams

I think that everyone has that person in their past that somehow haunts them. Whether it is the what if person, the one you let get away, or just generally someone that you reminisce about the good times, even though they ended. I am also a strong believer in the idea that once that person has left your left, it’s probably for a good reason and you really don’t need to revisit that relationship. This story just drove home that belief for me.

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The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

This is a seriously intense, wonderful, powerful, amazing book. Like. Wow. I’ve recently become a little intrigued by Jack the Ripper, but, as with many others, I hadn’t really given huge amounts of thought to the women that he actually killed. Which I now feel kind of ashamed of. Because Rubenhold reminds us that these five women were, you know, people too. And should be remembered as such. Not for the way the died. Not for the way the media portrayed them. But for individuals in and of themselves. Women who loved, lost and experienced life. Women with families, husbands, children…

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The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic edited by Mike Ashley

It took me a little while to seriously get into this collection. But, once I did… I was completely hooked. I quite obviously love fantasy from the books that fill my shelves. But, as I’ve gotten older, I have found that I am drawn again and again to fantasy of a darker bent. Although not all of these short stories suited that desire, they just weren’t that dark… this collection was still seriously brilliant.

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The Goose Girl by Tim Wynne-Jones

The Goose Girl is one of those fairy tales where I really, really loved the original story. The idea of the villain in the story pronouncing her own death… well, of course it intrigued me immediately. What I didn’t expect was that I would love a story in which the villain really wasn’t the villain… it was all just an accident of fate and an intriguing story. One that had a seriously tragic ending… but was still very, very good.

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Bitter Draught by Michael Earp

Starting this story, I was really intrigued to find out where the “bitter draught” was going to come from. I was honestly expecting something that dealt with prejudice or the difficulties in realising that you are LGBTQI+. But, it wasn’t that at all. Like the first few short stories in this collection, the fact that Simeon was gay wasn’t even dealt with in any way expect to say that he had a significant other who was also male. I love this acceptance and simplicity in the writing. What I wasn’t sure on though was what the “bitter draught” would then end up being…

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