Review of ‘Painted over’ by Sofi Keren.

3.50 Stars. I ended up enjoying this more than I expected to. It was a sweet romance and a good debut. This is a second chance romance with some angst (but not too much) and likable main characters. Sofi Keren is definitely an author I will keep my eye on.

This is a story about two best friends that have a falling out that leads to them not speaking for a decade. When a flat tire re-connects them, they must decide if they can pick up where they left off or is there too much heartbreak in the way.

The second chance storyline is one we see often in lesfic but it worked for this book. What I was most surprised to find was how invested I was in the characters in such a short amount of time. I found myself almost crying at one point and was actually happy about that because it meant the book was making me feel. The book is on the shorter side, but it just made it so the book had a nice pace that never got bogged down.

My only real complaint is I’m not a fan of third person single point of view. If you are only going to be in the headspace of one character the whole book, I would prefer it to be in first person. That way you can really connect to the one character. But this is a personal preference and the book still made me feel so I can’t complain too much.

This was short and sweet with some angst. I think most romance fans will enjoy this one. It’s not perfect but it’s a good debut and it put a smile on my face. This is one I would recommend.

An ARC was given to me for an honest review.

Review of ‘The Soulstealers’ by Jacqueline Rohrbach.

3.75 Stars. ‘The Soulstealers’ was a well written, YA fantasy book. I do have to admit that I didn’t love the story as much as I wanted to. However, I’m still rating this on the higher side because it’s a well done, quality, YA book.

In this world, magic comes at a steep price. When Druids come of age they steal and trap the soul of a person to leach magic off of. Arnaka is turning 16 and it is now time for her to get a soul familiar. The problem is the girl that must die to have her soul trapped by Arnaka is her best friend. Arnaka promises her friend that she will do everything in her power to stop any more people having to die for magic. Can Arnaka fight all that stands against her to keep her promise?

While this is a YA book, it is on the darker side. If librarians are considering this I would suggest it for older teens. One of my issues with the storyline is that I felt it was pretty depressing. There is friendship, hope, and even a teeny tiny baby f/f romance, so it’s not all doom and gloom, I just wish there were a bigger amount of lighter moments. I felt like this book weighed on me a bit.

The imagination of this book is very well done. While a floating city and palace above a ravaged land is not a new concept, the rest of the book felt pretty fresh. I have read a lot of mainstream and LGBTQ fantasy books so it’s always a pleasant surprise for a book to have really new ideas.

The characters are all pretty well done even the more secondary ones. It was a good cast of heroes and villains. As I mentioned before, there is a baby romance but nothing more than a couple of kisses. I wish there was time to develop the relationship between the characters more but with so much going on in the book, there just wasn’t.

This sort of leads me to one of my issues which is time. I wish there was more time for expanding on things in the book. I didn’t feel enough time was spent between Arnaka and her best friend to really cement their strong friendship connection. I wanted more time for the romance even if it was kept G-rated and I wanted more time at the end of the book, the ending was a tiny bit of a letdown.

This book has some great adventures, some good magic battles, and well thought out characters. The story itself felt refreshingly new. It did make me feel a little melancholy because it is on the sadder side. Overall I would still recommend this to YA fantasy fans.

NineStar Press really has some of the best covers. They impress me more and more every time I see a new book out.

An ARC was given to me for an honest review.

Review of ‘Language of love’ edited by Astrid Ohletz and Lee Winter.

‘Language of love. A flirty, festive anthology’ is a collection of eleven lesfic short stories with the common theme of holiday season traditions around the world. Ylva is a very international and multicultural publishing company and this is reflected in this compilation. The mains characters in these stories includes an ice-queen, a shy lesbian, an allegedly straight woman, young and mature. It is also surprising the mixture of genres like romance, mystery, drama, crime and young adult.

I have to say that normally it’s hard to keep a high level of writing quality in a book with so many authors and different types of stories but this one achieved remarkable results. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every story will please everyone but they will surely enrich your knowledge of holiday festivities. Here I review my favourite ones.

‘The friend’ by Lee Winter. Great story about conflicting family dynamics focusing on an Australian Christmas summer celebration inspired by English traditions.

‘Deck the halls with bullets and holly’ by Alex K. Thorne is a quirky story about a rookie hired assassin and her attractive target. This story is set in South Africa and features an interracial couple.

‘Mask’ by Sheryn Munir is a fantastic coming-out story between two best friends secretly in love with each other with the background of Christmas celebrations in India. It deals with difficult issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and being a lesbian in the present and past.

‘Orphans’ Christmas’ by Cheyenne Blue is a superb story about an Irish family of immigrants in Australia, trying to keep traditions alive, while dealing with bereavement. A great personal bonus for me is to see an authentic portrayal of Irish characters, so often mentioned in lesfic but rarely described accurately.

‘And the bells are ringing out’ by Lola Keeley is an excellent interracial love story set in Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) celebrations from the perspective of a Senegalese woman living in London.

‘Paula gets a pony ranch’ by Patricia Penn is a very original, funny, sarcastic and irreverent Christmas tale set in Germany about a no-nonsense business woman who inherits a pony ranch.

‘Four Chanukahs and a Bat Mitzvah’ by Cindy Rizzo is a great story about Jewish traditional celebrations of Hanukkah in the context of a coming of age story and two young women going through different life stages and finding love.

‘It’s in the pudding’ by Emma Weimann is a great romantic story with the unusual setting of a dentist practice along with a German tradition of hiding an almond in the pudding and granting a wish to whom discovers it.

Overall, a fantastic compilation of holiday season lesfic stories, great to get you in the mood for celebration. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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