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ARC Review: Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology by Melanie R. Meadors

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I’ve read a couple of really great short story anthologies on NetGalley lately, but this one was something of a dud, which is a shame because the idea is really cool.

There were a few stories that I really enjoyed, but mostly I was indifferent to them, actively disliked them, or got to the end and said ‘what was the point even?’ — not my usual response to fantasy stories.

Even with the few stories I really enjoyed, my overall feeling about this collection wavers between ‘meh’ and ‘avoid’ so I can’t really recommend it.

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

Blog Tour and ARC Review: The Tigers in the Tower by Julia Golding

Book Info:

The Tigers in the Tower by Julia Golding

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Publishing Date: November 18, 2020


“A Little Princess – with tigers! Orphan and outcast Sahira Clive is a brave and plucky heroine with a brightly burning heart. I was rooting for her all the way to the end of this thrilling – and thought-provoking – adventure.”Ally Sherrick, award-winning author of Black Powder

Sahira’s family are travelling to England to deliver two majestic Indian tigers to the menagerie in the tower of London.

But tragedy strikes and sickness steals Sahira’s parents from her on the journey. Left alone in London, Sarhira finds herself confined to a miserable and dangerous orphanage. Despite her heartache and the threats she faces, Sahira is determined to carry out her father’s last request – to protect God’s beautiful creatures: her tigers. To do so, Sahira must set out on an adventure and use all her powers of persuasion to engage the help of some new friends along the way.

Can the quest to find her tigers a safe home, lead Sahira to find her own place of hope and belonging in this strange and foreign land?

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Barnes and Noble:

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My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this story! It reminded me of the Little Princess and the Secret Garden, with characters and misfortunes worthy of a Charles Dickens novel.

Sahira is brave and determined to care for her tigers, even after losing both her parents on the voyage to England and being forced into a harsh orphanage where criminals have the upper hand and the proprietor is greedy and cares nothing for his charges.

She makes friends and braves many challenges on her quest to help her tigers. And she helps many other people along the way, never once backing down or giving in to bullies, no matter how much trouble she lands herself in.

I was rooting for Sahira the whole time, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about her adventures and exploits, and especially her love for the animals. Middle grade readers of all ages will love this adventure that’s full of heart.

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

About the Author:

Julia Golding is a multi-award winning writer for adults and young adults. She also writes under the pen names of Joss Stirling and Eve Edwards. Born in 1969, she grew up near Epping Forest. She studied English at Cambridge University, then joined the Foreign Office and worked in Poland, before returning to Oxford University to study for a doctorate in literature of the romantic period.  She worked for Oxfam, lobbying on conflict issues, before becoming a full-time writer. Over three-quarter of a million of her books have been sold worldwide in many languages.

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ARC Review: Juliet Takes a Breath (Graphic Novel) by Gabby Rivera

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book. I have not read the book the graphic novel is based on (also called Juliet Takes a Breath) but now I definitely want to.

The art is gorgeous and I love the color palette. The characters are all clearly individuals and clearly queer and beautiful.

Juliet undergoes so much growth in this graphic novel – nearly every frame shows her growing and becoming herself. She starts as a baby queer interning for one of her heroes. Unfortunately, said hero turns out to be a very white granola hippy feminist with a poor grasp of intersectionality.

There are a lot of lessons here of what it means to be queer and a poc vs what it means to be queer and white, and I really appreciated it. I feel like I learned a few things too.

It was a quick read and that was a bit deceptive because every frame is important and every frame takes Juliet on her journey from her mom not accepting her to finding her tribe and her family finally accepting her. It ties up neatly, but so often stories of girls like Juliet don’t, and it was nice to find one that does.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Boom! Studios for providing an e-arc for review.

Book Review: City of Lies by Sam Hawke

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I bought this thinking it looked good quite a while ago, but didn’t get around to reading it until I was granted an arc of the second book just a few weeks before its publication date. Of course, that’s when I realized each was 500+ pages. Whoops.

I was surprised to find that a 500+ book page could be entirely about a siege because… there wouldn’t seem to be that much to write about. But there were also murders and poisonings and sabotage and treachery and backstabbing and religion vs. science and other fun things. There was just also a siege going on at the same time.

I really enjoyed the alternating POV between brother and sister Jovan and Kalina. The cast of characters were engaging and interesting and I enjoyed my time with all of them.

While this took a lot longer to read than my most recent reads, it was completely riveting the entire time and I look forward to diving into the next one.

ARC DNF Review: A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This book sounded so good and then it just… wasn’t. Mostly that can be attributed to the writing which was stilted and sounded as if the author spent way too much time consulting a thesaurus. I had to read around words to get to the story, which was decent but not enough to keep me reading. If writing style isn’t a make-or-break issue for you then you might enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me.

An example (and yes the entire book is written like this):

“And from the spectacle the police put on today, I doubt they’re prepared to listen to the exhortations of the two ladies whose interview provided the very ammunition to arrest Clark.”

It’s just… wordy, in a way that constantly breaks any tension.

I did like the way Katherine owns a newspaper and is determined to write about the murders for women, but her extreme naivete in thinking she can do so without having any effect on the investigation is a little unbelievable.

Also the chemistry with Andrew – who was conducting the investigation, at least until her story promts his superiors to take him off the case and arrest the wrong man – was nonexistent. The moment they encounter one another again he starts getting sidetracked by lustful thoughts when he’s supposed to be interrogating her? It was awkward and weird.

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

Book Review: Hollowpox, The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I don’t even know how to review this except to say that I am absolutely in love with this world and these characters. It’s like Harry Potter, but better.

This book has Morrigan facing bigger, nastier things than previous books, which is where Ezra Squall comes in. Speaking of Squall, he’s the best villain I’ve come across lately because besides being scary and evil and whatnot, he also shows a softer side to Morrigan. He never lies to her, and even helps her sometimes. Jupiter North is absolutely the best patron / father figure and Morrigan has grown so much since he saved her from Jackalfax that night. Hawthorn and Cadence are staunch allies and friends, the entire staff of the Ducalion (and the building itself) are there for her no matter what – something the Wundrous Society can’t really say. Suffice to say I will definitely be rereading the first three books as I anxiously await the fourth installment.

Oh! And while romance isn’t something that’s been in any of the books thus far, this one had a really sweet LGBT+ moment near the end that I won’t spoil but that gives me hope for when Morrigan and her crew get a bit older and start thinking about those things.

ARC Review: Princess Floralinda and the Forty Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED Gideon the Ninth, and I have Harrow waiting for when my brain is up to the task of reading it, so obviously I jumped when this gem appeared on NetGalley. It had been on my list for a while, and I was anxiously waiting to be able to read it. Tamsyn Muir has a masterfully sarcastic subversive writing style and I can’t get enough.

On to the story. I wasn’t as convinced at first, as Floralinda was rather dull (typical princess, you know, of the fainting at every difficulty variety). Then Cobweb showed up – a bottom-0f-the-garden fairy / chemist who is annoyed at all required fairy tasks and generally unapologetically awful. Floralinda was puzzled at Cobweb’s disdain of gender, and so just assigned her a gender (girl) instead of trying to wrap her head around it. Like I said, very steroetypically princessy. Cobweb pretty much just rolled her eyes and said whatever I don’t care.

The tower they were in was 40 flights tall and had a new monster at each successive level for the princes to fight.

Then, as winter approached and it became clear no princes were coming (that hadn’t already been eaten by the diamond encrusted dragon on the first level, because of courses), she started thinking about how she might get out by going down.

Thanks to Cobweb’s ingenuity and exasperation, and rather a lot of dumb luck, at least at first, they begin to make their way down the tower. As I’ve come to expect from Tamsyn Muir, it was rather bloody and gory, and the monsters were intriguing and the fight scenes well-written.

Floralinda grows as she makes her way down, and I actually rather loved the ending twist. Cobweb grew on me, and I heartily enjoyed Floralinda & Cobweb’s changing relationship as the story progressed.

Highly recommend, especially if you’re a fan of the princess tales from a few decades ago where the princesses aren’t golden and empty-headed and actually want to do things for themselves, thanks.

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

ARC Review: The Truth About Dukes by Grace Burrowes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For the first 15% of this book I really actively disliked it. I was seriously considering dnfing it. I’ve read Burrowes’ books before and enjoyed them, but it felt like we were dumped into a scene midway through followed by a series of short conversations between characters I didn’t know about this mysterious thing that no one was naming. Part of this could be that it was the fifth in a series (which I didn’t realize until I started reading it.)

However. I persevered and actually started really enjoying it soon after that, when Constance and Robert start interacting more.

The really interesting thing about this book, to me, is that it wasn’t what I was expecting for a historical romance. There wasn’t a lot of sex (honestly that’s a good thing), and Constance and Robert got together VERY early on. The conflict didn’t hinge on their relationship or misunderstandings between them, but rather on outside events each was going through. It actually felt more like historical fiction than historical romance.

The families were wonderful, and I was reminded a great deal of the Bridgertons. Which is good as I adored the Bridgerton clan and now I adore the Rothmeres and Wentworths as well. I’m tempted to go back and read the other books in the series now that I know how much fun the characters are.

This novel also took on some serious topics – Epilepsy, mental competency trials, anxiety, and adopted children one regrets giving up. I don’t have personal experience with any of those, but I do have other debilitating physical and mental illnesses and the way these topics were handled rang true to me.

All in all a great book, but that awkward beginning drops the rating a bit for me.

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

*whoops just realized this review has been sitting in my drafts for a month. Smh.

November TBR

This month I’m participating in TBR and Beyond’s monthly TBR challenge: the Crime Detective Agency. Here’s my TBR – let’s see if I can stick to it this time.

– The Case of the Missing Marquess – 5 stars this was a fun middle-grade read.
– City of Lies – Have to finish this one as I also need to read my arc of the sequel, the Hollow Crown, this month.
– The Scorpio Races – I reread this one of my favorites every November.
– The Impossible Contract – Read the first Ghadid book quite a while ago and these have been on my TBR since.
– The Unconquered City
– Hollowpox – Just discovered the Morrigan Crow books last month and I LOVE them.
– The Duke Heist – I love Erica Ridley’s books and I’m looking forward to this arc
– Namesake – loved Fable and looking forward to this arc as well.
– The Inheritance Games – haven’t heard much about this one but it’s a gorgeous cover.

I also need to read a few ARCs publishing in November / early December:

– Hollow Empire
– Princess Floralinda and the 40 foot tower – REALLY looking forward to this one!
– When a Rogue Meets his Match
– Jolene
-Universe of Wishes

I’m sure I won’t manage to get all of these read (especially with myself, my husband, and even my 6-year old stressed about the election results) but I’m going to try.