ARC Review: The Jane Austen Investigates – The Abbey Mystery, by Julia Golding

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a delightful mystery reminiscent of my favorite Mandie and Nancy Drew mysteries that I devoured as a child. The story dragged a bit at first, as Jane set out on her journey and settled into Sir Charles’ household, but once it got going I was thoroughly hooked. Dastardly villains have quite met their match in a young Jane Austen, her faithful dog, and her new friends. Jane investigates with enthusiasm and entertains and discards several suspects before alighting on the culprits. An all-around satisfying mystery adventure.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Lion Hudson Ltd. for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen

She Drives Me Crazy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I saw ‘enemies-to-lovers fake dating sapphic sports romance’ and absolutely had to read this. And I am SO happy that it completely lived up to and surpassed my expectations.

This book is a sappy feel-good teen romcom at its finest and I loved every minute. I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to cheer for Scottie and Irene. The grand gestures are perfection and echoed their (and my) favorite romcom moments.

The heart-to-heart moment with Scottie’s family was a tad unrealistic but also lovely. Scottie’s family and friends were so supportive – as were Irene’s – and the ending was as joyful as I hoped.

Also that cover is Everything.

If you love queer romances and teen romcoms then I encourage you to pick this one up.

Thanks to NetGalley and Roaring Book Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter

The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties, #1)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

First impression: I feel like I’ve been reading this one forever (which according to my reading activity translates to… 6 days). This is longer than I usually take to read a book, however, and I think this one did drag a tiny bit in the middle, but I never really felt it dragging. It was more an overall feeling and I think was mostly due to this book requiring a slower reading because parts of the worldbuilding are very complex and the structure of the story is many-layered. The conclusion was very fast-paced though. And if it’s not obvious from this intro paragraph… I absolutely loved it.

The way the story is structured, there’s a lot of anticipation as the reader discovers things the main character doesn’t know. There are 3 POVs, though the story is told mainly through de-Krona, a slightly naive and generally good-hearted police officer who starts the story off by failing to stop a heist of dangerous magical artifacts. (This is an angle I’ve never seen explored in a heist novel.) This heist reopens a sort of Jack the Ripper case that was rather disturbing.

After a few chapters, de-Krona’s chapters begin to alternate with another woman’s (unrelated at first) set two years previous. Later, another set of alternating chapters appear, this time of a man set 11 years earlier who very quickly becomes very obviously related to de-Krona’s investigation. There’s also a very clever intro to de-Krona’s chapters that becomes clear at the end.

I empathized with each of the POV characters and wanted things to go well for them even as it became clear for some that they wouldn’t. I also really enjoyed a few side characters, Thibaut especially.

You know a book is good when it gives you chills of anticipation and foreboding. Also I love how the threads of the story weave around each other.

The religion and creation story is complex and fascinating. It’s frontloaded in the intro and first chapters but it stays consistently important throughout. There are 5 gods with 5 sets of pronouns and this is done in a way that feels organic and makes sense with the story. There is a religious component to the overarching mystery de-Krona is trying to solve, as well as a magical component, and I have a feeling the gods are going to be very important in the next books.

The way magic works in this world is very interesting – especially the death masks. The time tax and use of time as currency is also quite unusual

I highly enjoyed reading this and am anxious to find out what comes next. It’s definitely going in my top 10 for the year, possibly top 5.

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

ARC Review: How to Catch a Duke by Grace Burrowes

How to Catch a Duke (Rogues to Riches, #6)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book took longer to read than most historical romances I read, and the pace was very slow. Stephen and Abigail were also a bit standoffish and took a long time to really open up to the reader. Once the story got going, however, I enjoyed it immensely. I probably would have enjoyed it more had I read the first four books in this series, rather than just the fifth, and would have got more of the references within the Wentworth family, but there was enough information provided that I never felt completely lost.

Once the story got moving, I really enjoyed it. The relationships were a tangle that was sorted in the end, and both Stephen and Abigail had past struggles and sorrows that they had to come to terms with (and they eventually did). Even without reading the first four books, I feel like this one wrapped up the series and provided a fitting end.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing this e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Malice by Heather Walter

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I struggled with how to rate this one. For much of the book I was completely hooked and fascinated by the magic of the Graces and Alyce’s goodness despite all she’s been put through. But then… that ending. I feel like everything that had been built up was just thrown out for a shock ending. It didn’t feel like Alyce at all. It was as if they threw out all of Alyce’s character growth and convictions – it wasn’t a believable character shift. And even though it ends on that shocking cliffhanger, I don’t find myself interested in seeking out the sequel at all, which is a shame.

This book is sort of a mix of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella (especially at the beginning), and Maleficent (especially toward the end). Toward the end, the similarities begin to add up and are rather more pointed than subtle. It felt like a lot of the imagery from the ending was taken from the Disney movie, which was odd as the rest of the book had stayed rather far from the Disney movie.

The romance is only hinted at until near the end, and then suddenly they rush to sleeping with each other which… I don’t know. It felt too sudden. The story dragged rather a lot in the middle and then rushed everything at the end, and I wish that had been smoothed out more.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Victories Greater Than Death (Universal Expansion #1)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This has an *awesome* cover, but just wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The writing was more juvenile than I usually expect from YA and while there were things about it I liked, there was nothing about the plot that drew me in. I was mostly just bored and hoping I would get through it quickly.

There was a large (too large) cast of fascinating characters, with varied and interesting backgrounds. And I loved how they introduced themselves with their pronouns as well – that was cool. But there were so many – especially the kids from Earth – that it got confusing trying to figure out which was which. They just kept blurring together in my mind.

My biggest problem with the novel was the main character, Tina. She’s supposedly an experimental clone of a heroic and well-loved captain, but she doesn’t have the captain’s memories (though she does have an encyclopedic knowledge of things her human self has never heard of. Basically she’s Captain Kirk. She’s reckless and impulsive, can’t take orders, and generally makes more problems than she solves. Her new knowledge is just enough to improbably save her from every scrape, which gets annoying. I think it was her who really turned me off to the novel from the beginning when she’s impatiently waiting for her beacon to activate and take her away.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Teen for providing an e-arc for review.

March 2021 Wrap-Up

In March I read 14 books, most of which were quite good. I was on a bit of a romance kick, as you can see. Titles and links as follows:

  • The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman — 5 stars — I read this for the *third* time this year with my kiddo, this time by listening to the audiobook. They still love it, so the 5 star rating stands
  • An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson — 5 stars — This was a reread of the audiobook and I loved it just as much, if not more, this time around. This is probably my favorite depiction of the fae ever.
  • The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by KJ Charles — 5 stars — this was pure indulgence and I loved it
  • Lintang and the Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss — 5 stars — slow and slightly lacking at first but overall a fun adventure with a lot of character growth
  • How to Catch a Duke by Grace Burrowes — 4 stars — a bit slow but very enjoyable once it gets going. the romance is a tangle that does get cleared up by the end
  • Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore — 4 stars — an enjoyable romance but slightly lacking
  • When a Duke loves a Governess by Olivia Drake — 3 stars — an enjoyable romance mostly due to the governess rescuing the duke from his unruly children, but the writing style was lacking
  • She Drives me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen — 5 stars — this was a queer sports romcom and an absolute delight to read
  • So This is Love by Elizabeth Lim — 4 stars — Not my favorite Twisted Tale, but Elizabeth Lim is definitely my favorite Twisted Tale author, so it’s a close second
  • Riverboat Adventures by Lucy Kinkaid — 5 stars — I loved this as a child, and I’m delighted that my kiddo loves it too. It makes the *best* bedtime tales
  • Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt — 4 stars — A lovely fake-married bodyguard romance with the couple travelling together so there’s not a lot of characters or plot beyond the romance
  • A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore — 5 stars — A delightful suffragette romance with wonderful characters
  • The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter — 5 stars — An excellent and extremely creepy fantasy mystery/thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last. I will never forget about the Blooms. Or the Varg.
  • Malice by Heather Walter — 3 stars — This one was a disappointment. I loved it for the first 90% as a unique twist on sleeping beauty / cinderella, but it fell apart at the end and threw character development out the window in favor of a shock ending.

April 2021 TBR

This is what I’m hoping to read in April. I definitely won’t get to them all, but I hope to knock out a fair few of them, as many are ARCS and are due soon.

ARC Review: To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed to Have and to Hoax, but this one was even better. Possibly because I am eternally a sucker for an enemies-to-lovers dynamic.

Jeremy and Diana had so much chemistry (hidden under poking and teasing at one another) that their interactions were a lot of fun to read. I loved seeing them banter and tease and bait one another mercilessly, while also connecting in private and realizing that there was more to each of them than the carefully crafted lazy personas they showed the world. I found myself laughing over and over again at their ridiculousness.

Lady Helen was truly inspired, and I loved Jeremy’s grandmother. All of my favorite regency romances have a sarcastic, matchmaking grandma or great aunt involved, it seems.

One thing I really liked about this book was how even Jeremy and Diana’s closest friends sometimes couldn’t see beneath their masks, when it was so easy for Jeremy to see the real Diana and vice versa as they continued their liaison.

Also I am greatly looking forward to Lady Emily’s book. I assume that will be the next one, (unless it’s Sophie and West which would be just as good really) and I can’t wait. Really curious about Diana’s brother, though. His entire group of friends is pairing up, but so far I haven’t seen a whiff of a partner for him. Curious…

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

ARC Review: One Thing Leads to a Lover by Susanna Craig

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was delightful and I loved it. I needed a good regency romance with a bit of spy action to get me through a day spent stuck in bed, and this didn’t disappoint.

Amanda was stifled and frustrated with her overbearing mother and suitor, the Magpie was a master of disguise and excellent with her children, and the romance and adventure were swoon-worthy.

I loved watching Amanda come into her own and give herself permission to live and have some adventure, and I loved seeing the Magpie as he came to care about her and her children and protect them.

The actual spying takes a backseat to the romance a good bit of the time, but as it’s what I wanted I definitely didn’t mind. There’s also enough intrigue going on to add some extra flavor to the romance.

I will definitely be seeking out more of Susanna Craig’s books, since I enjoyed this one and Who’s that Earl so much.

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

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