ARC Review – The House with the Golden Door

book review

Hello, everyone! Today I am reviewing The House with the Golden Door by Elodie Harper, which is the sequel to The Wolf Den. I enjoyed the first book quite a bit, and I was excited to get access to an advanced copy of this one, as well.

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ARC Mini Review – The Wolf Den

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all having a great Sunday so far. Today I’m excited to review The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper. I’ve seen a lot of praise for this book ever since it was released in the UK last year. It will finally be published in the US on Tuesday, and I was lucky enough to snag an eARC. I love Greek and Roman myths and legends and the ancient world in general. So, I was really looking forward to reading this one.

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Book Review – The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Length: 320 pages

Read Date(s): May 7 ,2021 – May 9, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.


One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating exploration of women rebelling against a man’s world, the destructive force of revenge and the remarkable ways that women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

My Review

This book defied my expectations. I picked it out thinking it would be a dark book about murder and betrayal filled with suspense and intrigue. While those things were present to some degree, the book was so much more. It was first and foremost about how to pick yourself up after a devastating breach of trust and move forward without being held down by the past or consumed by a desire for revenge. It tackled a few other powerful themes (overcoming trauma, oppression of women in the past and present, uncovering the truth of oneself and disentangling that truth from societal expectations) and did so poignantly. The prose was easy to read and well-written, and I enjoyed the author’s style of writing, especially the ease with which she helped me enter the internal world of these characters and their struggles.

This book consisted of two parallel stories, one happening in the 1790s and the other in the present. I loved the story of the apothecary living in the 1790s. The two main characters of this part of the story, Nella and Eliza, were well-developed, and I enjoyed seeing their friendship blossom. They were definitely an unlikely pairing, but the differences between the characters and how those differences affected their interactions was a big part of what made their story endearing. The backstory of Nella and her journey throughout the book were sad, yet riveting, and kept me hooked on the story. The ending was not what I expected, but I loved it. I think one of my favorite quotes from the book sums up Nella’s story so well:

Healing by way of vengeance. But no such thing existed; it never had. Hurting others had only injured me further.

The story of Caroline set in the present day was also interesting, but I didn’t like it as much as I did the story of the apothecary. It seemed to drag at times, and I found myself questioning how easily she found information and solved different parts of the mystery. Despite these drawbacks, I thought the adventure itself was a great device for the self-exploration present in her story, and I enjoyed feeling like I was solving the mystery of the apothecary alongside Caroline. I also related to the self-exploration aspect of her story and the ease with which one can lose oneself in the rat race of life and the expectations that others place on us. The distinction this book made between being happy and being fulfilled, and how one can be one without the other, really made me stop and think about my own life.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction who also enjoys reading about transformative stories. The characters feel like real people and undergo a lot of growth throughout the book. People just looking for a book with lots of murder and darkness will probably be disappointed, but there is some of that here as well. I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review: A Song of Steel

***Thank you to NetGalley and the author for providing a copy of the book for my fair and honest review!***

Goodreads Synopsis

Alternate history – 1116 AD. Three hundred years of cruel Viking raids have finally united Christian Europe against the pagan Northlands. A great crusade has been called to pacify the wild Norse kingdoms. The banner of the cross has been raised against the north, and all the power and fury of the west rides under it.


Ordulf, a talented young German swordsmith, is ripped from his comfortable life and cast into the bloody chaos of the crusade. As fate deals him a cruel blow in the lands of his enemies, he will have to forge a new path through the chaos, or be consumed by it.


In the Northlands, three rival kingdoms must unite to survive the onslaught. But can any man, king or commoner, unite the bickering brotherhood of the Norse? Or is the time of the Vikings finally drawing to a violent end. Heroes will fail, kings will fall, and ordinary people will fight for the right to a future.

What I Liked

I loved this book. It pulled me in from the very start with the mystery surrounding the sword and kept me hooked throughout the story with the great characterization and beautifully written battle sequences. This author definitely has a way with words that constantly left me wanting to read just one more page.

The characters in this book were fantastic. They felt like real people, and it was easy to understand their motivations and emotions because the author did a great job of making me feel like I know these people. The two main protagonists, Ordulf and Ragnvald, were particularly well-crafted. I enjoyed jumping between the two because it gave the perspectives of both sides of the war and provided a window into the unique strengths and weaknesses of each culture. Their stories also complemented each other well, with one character being older and more experienced and the other young and naive. However, I appreciated that they were both on similar journeys that required shedding off some of the ways of their pasts to embrace a new future and ensure their survival.

The prose throughout the story was exquisitely detailed and beautifully written. The battle sequences were especially well-done. They made me feel like I was going into battle with the characters and had just the perfect amount of gore to be realistic without overdoing it. I was also pleasantly surprised with how well the writing pulled me into parts of the story I would have otherwise found boring. A great deal of time in this novel was spent on describing the forging of weapons. This is something I’ve never been very interested in before, but this author’s prose was spell-binding enough to keep me hooked throughout those parts of the book. I feel as though I came away from the story with a better understanding of metallurgy and had fun learning about it, which is something I never expected going into this book.

I also greatly enjoyed the information about Norse culture displayed throughout this book. I didn’t know much about it prior to reading the story, and I am now interested to learn more. The author weaved the information skillfully throughout the narrative, and I never felt like I was being taught anything about history. However, I learned a lot from this book, and it has whetted my appetite to learn more!

Things I Didn’t Like

Nothing. I loved everything about this book, and I cannot wait for the next one to be released.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy historical fiction or fantasy books, this might just be the book for you. The writing is wonderful, and the characters are realistic and fun to read. The battle sequences are outstanding, and I loved learning about Norse culture and metallurgy because the information is presented in engaging bits throughout the story. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.