ARC Review: Ten Days with a Duke by Erica Ridley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this! I thought I loved the previous two 12 Dukes of Christmas books but nope, this one’s my favorite. Where Erica Ridley shines is creating characters that are interesting and unique and that grab you from the first page and make you root for them. Olive and Eli and their fathers were so real and vivid and leapt off the page. They were believable and sympathetic and I was rooting for them the whole time.

I love everything about this novel. I love how competent Olive is and how she knows her worth (as far as running a horse farm is concerned). I love how Eli dreads horses and wants nothing but to be left alone to study botany and discover cures for childbed fever. I love how they’re drawn to one another despite being sworn enemies. I even love their fathers’ feuding and manipulations.

All of it was grand and made for an extremely satisfying romance. Five enthusiastic stars from me!

*Thanks to Erica Ridley and WebMotion for providing an e-arc to review.

ARC Review: Goblin King by Kara Barbieri

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I enjoyed White Stag, though it definitely had its faults, and was looking forward to continuing the story. The problem now is that I wish the story had ended there. Goblin King is…. boring. Seriously boring. There’s no emotional connection to characters. The stakes may be high but they certainly don’t feel so. The story DRAGS on and on with nothing but Feyre – I mean Janneke – stewing over her emotional trauma and letting it dictate her relationships.

I found similarities to A Court of Thorns and Roses series in White Stag, but here they were overwhelming and unending. Janneke morphed into Feyre, Soren became Rhys, Lydian became Tamlin, Seppo became Cassian… It’s frankly ridiculous. I may as well just reread ACOTAR – at least it was more polished. Here I’m practically having to read between the words that are written just to understand it.

If you loved ACOTAR, it might be worth picking this up. Otherwise, I can’t recommend it.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing an e-arc to review

Book Review: White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I bought this after reading Wintersong and falling in love with that version of the Erlking. I had high hopes for it, but I also was turned off after buying it and seeing the content warnings in reviews. They’re the sort that usually turn me away from a book, but I decided to give it a go. And, for whatever reason, the content being warned actually didn’t bother me in this book.

The story was very good, but could have used a bit more work. The worldbuilding and magic explanations were scarce, and I came away feeling rather like it was ACOTAR on ice. The relationship between Janneke and Soren was a VERY large part of the book, and while I love a good fantasy romance, I also love a good fantasy worldbuilding, which this one lacked.

Towards the end, though, things picked up story-wise and I was left mostly satisfied. I loved the ending twist and that helped shape my overall opinion of this book.

I’ll be reading the ARC of the sequel in the next week or so, and it will be interesting to see where the story goes and if the worldbuilding improves.

ARC Review: Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book! Like Aliette de Bodard’s previous books, this one is highly influenced by Vietnamese culture and language. This is also another installment in her Xuya universe of mindships and humans, and like The Tea Master and the Detective, this story centers around a mindship and a human. It is also a murder mystery.

The characters are well-crafted and sympathetic, and the growing romance is sweet. Vân is an impoverished tutor with a secret she fears will ruin her; Sunless Woods is a thief masquerading as a scholar. Of course keeping these secrets gets them both in trouble, and they have to give in and share them in order to save their relationship. I sympathized with both Vân and Sunless Woods, and was definitely rooting for them and their romance.

The worldbuilding was excellent and comprehensive, taking the previously established world of mindships and space stations and expanding it to include memimplants – fascinating idea, carrying the knowledge of your dead ancestors in your head, the better to succeed on exams. The world felt real and complete and rich with setting and characters.

The language is still a bit challenging, though it gets easier the more I read, and it often uses hinted and unspoken information, which requires reading between the lines to get the full understanding. Every book of hers that I read intrigues me more and I will definitely be putting Aliette de Bodard on my autobuy list.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an e-arc to review.

Book Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this. Like the House of Shattered Wings series this has a strong Vietnamese influence, but this is set in space.

Our protagonist is a mindship who exists both in space and as an avatar projected to rooms where she interacts with humans. She makes tea blends that are carefully tailored to each customer. She becomes fascinated by a new customer and ends up going to retrieve a dead body and helping solve a murder mystery. All the while dealing with seeming attraction to said customer – a brash, drugged, brilliant consulting detective – and past trauma.

I would read a novel or even a series of these characters happily – they grew on me very quickly and were intriguing as a pair. Very Sherlock Holmes-esque.

I also love Aliette de Boddard’s writing style. It’s dense and all the Vietnamese inspired names and terms make reading it a bit difficult, not to mention the way things are hinted at but seldom said outright – like wading through knee-deep water instead of breezing along the shore – but I love it just the same. Or maybe because? I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m adding her to my auto-buy list.

ARC Review: Too Brazen to Bite by Erica Ridley

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure about this one — it’s a little campy and seems rather ridiculous at first. I quickly warmed up to it however, and ended up loving it. It doesn’t play out the way it seems at first it will — I was surprised several times with how the characters were portrayed.

Elspeth and Cain are not what they first appear – nor is Elspeth’s mother – and the way they defy expectations made me enjoy this a great deal more than I thought I would. The plot is a bit thin as it focuses on Elspeth and Cain’s attraction, but that’s not a bad thing in a romance novel. Sometimes you want something sweet and sexy and easy to read, and I will definitely be keeping Erica Ridley in mind for when I want such novels in future.

*Thanks to Erica Ridley and WebMotion for providing an e-arc to review.

ARC Review: In Their Shoes by Jamie Windust

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Part memoir, part self-help book, this exploration of what it means to be a young nonbinary femme trans creative professional in London is engaging and thought-provoking. It’s raw and honest in a way that really resonated with me, once I got used to the informal writing style.

Probably because it’s both self-help and memoir, the message sometimes got a little muddled, especially towards the beginning. Overall though I found it to be worth a read. I even stayed up late reading it in one sitting, so I suppose I was good and hooked.

The one thing that kept throwing me is that this is a self-help book that claims a vast expanse of knowledge and experience, with the implication that the author is looking back on long years of being nonbinary – and yet they are only 22. It was jarring to have someone that much younger than me writing with the assurance of someone much older. I will grant, however, that they seem to have a much broader swath of life experience than me, so perhaps that is warranted.

Definitely recommend to anyone wanting to expand their gender diverse – and especially nonbinary! – bookshelf.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for providing an e-arc for review.    

ARC Review & Blog Tour: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Rating: 5 out of 5.

TW self-harm, mental illness / madness

I really  enjoyed this book and was hooked throughout. Thea is a very strong and  determined character, and she has to overcome a lot of disappointment  and people trying to take Alchemy from her, after being raised to think  that Alchemy is all she has.

My favorite part of the story was  the madness – yes, I know, it’s actually a very large part of the story,  so I guess it’s good that I liked it. It was very well done, and as  someone who is bipolar and has experienced my own form of madness, it  felt very very real and believable. I really identified with Thea as she  slowly succumbs to the madness, desperately fighting it off to finish  what she feels she has to do.

The ending with the Stone was a  nice twist and was solidly backed up by previous events, so I never felt  thrown out of the story.

The characters were all intriguing, and  even though most of them didn’t get a lot of page time compared to  Thea, I really enjoyed all of them. I especially liked Thea’s mother and  the Comte and kind of wish we’d seen more of them. I also found myself  really liking Valentin as the story progressed.

All in all a very  satisfying standalone. Even though it’s not technically bipolar rep, I  feel like it really captures the spirit of bipolar rep so I’m mentally  adding it to that shelf in my brain.

Get it here!

Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday books for providing an e-arc for review.

Here’s some info on the book with an excerpt:

Set in eighteenth century England, Samantha Cohoe’s debut novel, A GOLDEN FURY (Wednesday Books; October 13, 2020), follows a young alchemist as she tries to save the people she loves from the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone. The streets of London and Oxford come to life as this historical fantasy unravels. Weaving together an alluring story of magic and danger, Samantha’s debut has her heroine making messy decisions as she toes the line between good and evil while it becomes blurred.

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

A GOLDEN FURY and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

About the Author

Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

And here’s an Excerpt:

Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review and Blog Tour: Swamp Thing Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really wasn’t sure about this at first, but I ended up really liking it. The plant-affected animals/people were rather creepy, which I’m sure was the point. I don’t know anything about Swamp Thing (I requested because I’m a longtime fan of Maggie Stiefvater and adore everything she’s written) so I don’t know how much of the backstory is new, but it was a compelling story and I really felt for Alec and his brother. I got Alec’s social isolation and how he understood the plants in his lab more than the people around him. And his jealousy/abandonment feelings toward his twin, who did seem to fit in with the cool kids.

Overall relatable, believable, and compelling. I love what Maggie did with the origin story here. Since it’s Maggie, it’s gorgeous and a little creepy, with just a touch of magic – and weird in the very best way.

Thanks to NetGalley and DC Entertainment for providing an e-arc to review

Here are some teaser images:

ARC Review: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was really enjoying this for most of the book. I LOVED having a nonbinary artist POV – especially one where their gender isn’t an issue and it’s their bumbling inability to focus on anything that isn’t art that gets them in trouble. Jebi is so relatable. The novel is dense enough that I had to be in a quiet place to focus on it, but it’s so fascinating.

Some of my favorite things about it:
1 – casual unremarkable nonbinary characters, LGBT+ relationships, and polyamory THAT DON’T DRIVE THE STORY.
2 – The magical paints. Also the process by which they’re created made me cringe, as an artist.
3 – Giant metal war machine dragon that’s actually a pacifist and more of a philosopher than anything? Heck yeah.
4 – bumbling artist attempts to find a job as an artist and ends up working for the war department of their conquerors? oops.

What even was up with that ending though??? It really threw me. The pacing is off for the last 20% or so as well, the combination of which knocked a star off my rating.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Rebellion publishing for providing an e-arc to review

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