ARC Review: Seventh by Rachel White

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was a nice easy read and I came away feeling generally positive about it. On the other hand, the ‘mystery’ was barely there in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of way, the romance developed far too quickly, and Dent’s rapid about-face from snarling insults to apology wasn’t really believable.

I really liked Hynd’s willingness to stick up for himself (even when it was hard for him) when he felt Julian was treating him poorly. However, he was also quick to judge Julian harshly and too willing to ignore other people’s mistreatment of him.

Julian was really hard to pin down – I had a hard time telling if Hynd’s scars troubled him or not, if he was interested in Hynd romantically or not, etc.

I really enjoyed Hynd’s sister and her determined championing of him. She’s willing to call people out for mistreating him even if he isn’t. However she doesn’t get a lot of screen time.

I started out enjoying Hynd’s research, then that got put on the back burner for a while, then suddenly he’s solved the mystery. I just feel like it could have been developed a lot more and I would have rated the novel higher.

In the same way, the relationship went from 0 to 100 so fast I had whiplash and I just feel like there were chunks of text missing. I wanted to *see* them becoming closer, finding clues, etc. Basically just having it be twice as long would have bumped my rating up a star or two because I *did* enjoy it – it just doesn’t feel complete.

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

ARC Review: One Night with a Duke by Erica Ridley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was another really sweet romance set in the Town of Cressmouth aka Christmas. Like the previous book, the characters in this one find themselves snowed in, which is of course a perfect time to slow down and get to know one another – even for those as driven as this unlikely pairing.

Angelica Parker is focused on her dreams of becoming recognized as a great jeweler. She is missing time with her family to feverishly work on custom orders. She has faced some discrimination because she’s a Black woman – people who refused to believe that she is the one creating all her work. This makes her a little wary of Jonathan MacLean when he breezes into her shop, but he charms her as quickly as he does anyone else.

Jonathan MacLean is equally driven. He’s constantly on the move from one town to another, and vows never to visit the same place twice. He finds himself adrift when snowed in without his business partner or the Duke they hope will fund their ready-made clothing business. He’s also my favorite romantic lead in a long time. He’s charming and cheerful and gives away his money to anyone who will take it. As one might expect, he has hidden depths.

I really loved the interactions between Angela and Jonathan. They had easy chemistry from the start and were just really sweet together.

I also loved that they never went beyond kissing in the book. It felt right for them, and it also made me more comfortable reading it.

There weren’t many obstacles, and those there were melted away pretty quickly, but that’s what I wanted in a sweet Christmas romance and so I’m very pleased with the experience of reading it. I will definitely be seeking out more of Erica Ridley and the Dukes of Christmas series.

Thanks to Netgalley, WebMotion, and Erica Ridley for providing an e-arc to review

ARC Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Rating: 5 out of 5.

That was… intense. I’m giving it 5 stars because I couldn’t put it down and I can’t stop thinking about it. I did end up reading it before bed and I absolutely wish I hadn’t because it was hard to calm myself down from all the adrenaline. Also the Ghosts are even creepier than I at first thought.

Excellent beginning. This story grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let up. The writing is clear and doesn’t get in the way of the action – and there’s plenty of action. Also, the Ghosts? Creepy as hell. Not sure I’d want to read this book before bed.

You really feel for Talin, for her loss and grief at losing her Shield / partner and her fear that she will no longer be accepted as a Striker without him to speak up for her, as she is a refugee.

I can see this book being an adrenaline-filled blockbuster, and would not be surprised if it’s picked up for a movie deal.

My favorite thing about this book is the characters. I cared about all of them – even the ones with very little page time. They all had distinct personalities and goals and histories.

Talin is fierce and determined and I really felt strongly for her. Even though she’s looked down on for being a refugee who dared to join the Strikers, she never lets it get to her or dampen her resolve to fight for justice. I really loved how she lost her voice as a child (and the reasons for that) and how most people just accept that she uses sign language instead – and learn to speak with her that way. The only people that try to put her down for it are the ones who are generally contemptible characters.

Adena and Jeran and Red all grew on me quickly, as well as Talin’s mom and the Firstblade.

The story is basically a nonstop action sequence (hence the adrenaline) with a lot of fighting and a lot of sneaking into enemy territory and then fighting to get out again. The horrors of the massive Federation lab were intense and grotesque.

It’s such an interesting take on the “group of teenagers fights a hopeless war” trope. While parts of it felt familiar from reading a ton of YA, there’s so much attention to detail that the story feels uniquely its own.

It would definitely make an excellent movie, but one I might not want to see. I’m not even 100% convinced I’ll pick up the sequel, just because it’s a little too intense and creepy for my comfort. (Oh, who am I kidding… I’ll pick up the sequel).

Politicians definitely don’t come off well in this story. The ruler of the Federation is intriguing in a way, as is the Chief Architect who has created all the horrors in this story.

Just all around excellently written and compelling.

*thanks to Bookishfirst and NetGalley and Roaring Book Press for providing a copy to review

ARC Review: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book started a little slow, but once it hooked me I stayed hooked. I was predisposed to like it, as I’m a big fan of fantasy and Regency historical romance. Polk took the best of both, turning a basic Regency world (with few choices for women beyond marriage) into a horrifyingly gilded cage that reminded me in sentiment of the Handmaid’s Tale.

Beatrice is an incredibly talented sorceress and wants nothing more than to pursue magic and live quietly at home promoting her family’s finances. Her father has wagered everything on her catching a wealthy husband and will not hear of her practicing magic at all, trapping her into the season she does not want.

The truly terrifying part of this book is the collars the women are forced to wear once married, in order to prevent a spirit from entering their growing baby. They are shackled with a silver collar, forced to submit to the dulling of their senses and lives, unable to work any magic. For Beatrice, this is the worst fate she can imagine – and that’s leaving out the cruel and selfish men she’s supposed to catch.

I loved Ysbeta and Ianthe – even though their introduction isn’t promising, they quickly become Beatrice’s staunchest allies. Ianthe tempts Beatrice and she spends a lot of time wondering if she could submit to her magic being taken from her, if it will give her Ianthe’s love. It creates a great deal of drama and indecision in Beatrice’s heart.

And Nadi. I loved the luck spirit and her enthusiasm for life and the way Beatrice finds loyalty in her when she least expects it.

The ending was a bit of a whirlwind but I love the way everything played out, and I am both satisfied that the story is complete and left wanting more.

*Thanks to Netgalley and Erewhon Books for providing an e-arc to review

ARC Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book  – publishing October 6 2020 – is so wonderful. It’s a lovely romance, but it’s also a love letter to the fanfic community and writing fanfic that captures the beauty and possibility of it. As I also have found community through fic there were so many passages I just wanted to hug the book to my chest I loved it so much. It’s geeky and heartfelt and just warms my heart.

My first impression – besides the fanfic parts that I loved – was that it had too much sex. This isn’t unusual for a romance and usually it’s just that I’m uncomfortable with all the sex since I’m ace. I want the emotional connection and closeness of a romance instead of the physical connection.

However I am willing to make allowances for this story.

April is fat and has been fat-shamed her whole life by family and friends and boyfriends. She has so much self-confidence and is defiantly in love with her body and it’s beautiful. She knows her body and revels in it and the pleasure it brings – and since she does have a history of being fatshamed I’m willing to accept that the sex showing both her and her partner (Marcus) absolutely loving her body is in fact necessary to the story.

Marcus is dyslexic and has been shamed for it for so long that he adopted a ‘beautiful and dumb as a rock’ persona that he has hidden behind his entire career. But he’s not dumb – he’s very intelligent and thoughtful and I love how April slowly helps him become more confident in himself.

Also they both write fanfic and actually met by beta-ing one another’s fics and becoming close fandom friends long before their in-person meeting. She writes gleefully smutty fics and he writes unapologetcally angsty fics and there are snippets of their past conversations and fics scattered through the book.

Also! He’s 40 and she’s 36 and they are both such avid members of the fanfic community and I think that’s beautiful and realistic – fandom is not in fact a place only for teenagers.

Their relationship is such a warm and supportive one and it’s so refreshing to read in a romance. I will *definitely* be picking up the sequel — which is about Marcus’ hilarious friend Alex and is called Slow Burn so I kind of have to.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing an e-arc to review  

Part The First: Being the Start of The Blog

I have been posting my reviews online for years now on goodreads, amazon, and barnes&noble. I began posting book reviews to my tumblr blog late last year. Upon realizing that people can only follow tumblr blogs if they have tumblr blogs of their own (duh, me), I decided to create a Blog blog that will allow people to follow me. If they want.

I’m keeping my name – Whimsical Dragonette – because I love it. I will also be posting older book reviews here, in addition to new reviews, because there are a lot of awesome books I want to recommend.

So. Without further ado, let the book reviews commence.

Oh, yes. In case anyone was wondering, (was anyone wondering?) My name is Shilo and I use the pronouns They/them. I am both queer and nonbinary.

Ahem.

Let the book reviews commence.

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