ARC Review: The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this one. I wasn’t sure at first, because the main character is so hard and bent on revenge, but she changes as she spends more time with the nahual in her ring. This is a very short novella, but an awful lot happens. A lot of plotting and blood and magic and self-discovery.f

In a way it’s a study of Yaxli and how she evolves after being overthrown from her position as head of the sorcerers guild — and more importantly, having the diamond that had belonged to her master taken from her.

I found myself completely immersed in Yaxli’s story, rooting for her despite her initial standoffishness and seeming cruelty, and she definitely grew on me as the story progressed. I loved her bond with the nahual and the reminders of their shared past as she rediscovered it.

If you love Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s works, definitely give this one a try.

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

Arc Review: The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

The Witness for the Dead (The Goblin Emperor, #2)

Synopsis:

Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel.

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin.

Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honestly will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.

Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.

Katherine Addison has created a fantastic world for these books – wide and deep and true.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED this book so much. On the surface it’s a murder mystery, or rather several murder mysteries, but really it’s a study of Thara Celehar. And Thara Celehar is SO relatable. He is humble and honest and prefers helping the commoners who petition him to involving himself in the politics he nevertheless gets drawn into. He has a deep-seated belief that he is somehow less worthy than others, and in some ways he is serving penance for what he perceives to be wrongs from his past. That most people wouldn’t see them as wrongs doesn’t matter, because he does. He cares for people and goes out of his way to help anyone and everyone, expecting nothing in return. Much as Maia was humble, honest, and hopeful in the Goblin Emperor, Celehar is humble and honest, though not hopeful. He is rather a pessimist.

I loved the journey of it, the way the story meandered from mystery to mystery, as Celehar followed his calling to help anyone who asked it of him. Along the way he finds several unexpected friends and people who obviously care for him, though he seems unable to believe it.

It is satisfying, in a way, to see all of these people who clearly value him, as the reader must value him after following him through his journey, and at the same time him not value himself. I hope that many good things are in store for Celehar, and I hope we get to continue on his journey to accept that maybe he’s not as terrible as he thinks he must be.

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

Audiobook ARC Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor, #1)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I listened to the audiobook of this, and the narrator did an amazing job; he just glides smoothly through all the ridiculously long and difficult names and I would not manage to be that smooth.

I was occasionally confused about which minor character was which (partly because I listened to it over several weeks because I had little time to devote to it each day), but overall I found the story compelling and fascinating.

I love how Addison thrusts us into the unknown world of the Imperial Court with a language and set of societal rules that are complicated and unfamiliar and just leaves us to figure it out — much as she dumps Maia into the same situation. I felt an intense kinship with Maia because of that, and because of his background and temperament, and it was immensely satisfying to watch him coming into his own as emperor and slowly making friends and finding his place.

All of the conflict is Maia’s internal struggle and his determination to be a better person and emperor than his father was – which of course pits him against those members of court who are still loyal to his father. There was no great outside conflict as one generally expects in a fantasy novel, and I love it for that, and for the way the entire novel is infused with Maia’s hope and determination to be good.

This second re-listen I’ve found I love it just as much, and am just as awed by the narrator’s smoothness and ability to wrangle complex names. I see more of Maia’s fight to keep himself from acts of pettiness against his cousin Setharis (who quite frankly deserves all of Maia’s pettiness and more after what he put Maia through over the course of his childhood) because he is so determined to be good. That goodness is Maia’s underlying character trait and despite what people in the court keep telling him, it serves him well.

*Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Audio for providing an audiobook arc to review.

ARC Review: An Extraordinary Lord by Anna Harrington

An Extraordinary Lord (Lords of the Armory, #3)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This one looked extremely promising – I absolutely love stories like this, with people working on the wrong side of the law to better other people’s lives. Unfortunately, I found myself skimming 90% of the words trying to get past the painfully awkward banter and fight scenes that would have been better in a movie. Phrases like “Deception flared in her eyes” illustrate what bothers me with this novel. What does that even mean? If it hadn’t been awkward and overwritten, I think I’d have greatly enjoyed this story.

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

ARC Review: A Duke in Time by Janna MacGregor

A Duke in Time (The Widow Rules #1)

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This looked promising but it didn’t deliver. The story was odd and the writing style did nothing to render it charming or enjoyable. Everything was flat, I didn’t care about any of the characters and the writing was awkward enough to trip me up several times in just a few pages. Sometimes a book just doesn’t click with a reader, and this is one of those times.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu

The Tangleroot Palace: Stories

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book is Dark. Most short stories are pretty dark but these are just. Beyond dark. I should have guessed after Monstress, but this is somehow darker. Maybe because I understand what’s going on more than in the graphic novels? Some of the darkness gets lost in translation to pictures I think. These stories are quite good just. Need to read in small doses. And the images – often disturbing – stick with you no matter how you might wish to forget.

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

ARC Review: The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite

The Hellion's Waltz by Olivia Waite

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really really enjoyed this one. Sophie and Maddie are both well-fleshed-out and intriguing characters. Their romance is swift but mostly believable and the ways they complement one another make it a very well-balanced story.

I wish there were more of it, really. More of Sophie, more of Maddie, more of the swindle and the rise to composer stardom. The only thing I wish there were less of is sex scenes. The are too abrupt, with little lead-up, which is jarring. There are too many for such a short story, and they take up too much time. But then, I always want fewer sex scenes and more story, so that could be mostly me.

*Thanks to Avon and Harper Voyager for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson aka the Bloggess

Broken (in the best possible way)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I won an arc of this on Goodreads and I’m SO glad I did because I might have put off buying it and that would have been a tragedy.

Jenny Lawson is so real and unfiltered and relatable, and I’ve loved her writing for years. As someone who also suffers from depression (but the bipolar kind) and anxiety there is so much here that makes me go yes, I understand that on a very deep level. But also Jenny has the funniest stories and the craziest interactions with people and I love it because this book was basically alternating between deeply resonating and making me laugh uncontrollably out loud.

I picked it up the instant it arrived in the mail and hardly put it down until I finished it the next day it was so good. It’s funny and heartbreaking and emotional and inspirational and I relate so hard.

Jenny Lawson says the things all of us with mental illness think but might not have the courage to say out loud. And sometimes they need to be said and shared.

ARC Review: Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst

Even and Odd

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first – the twins are young and read like it, and the young unicorn named Jeremy obsessed with the mundane world was a bit weird, and the kids’ dad had rainbow hair. I thought it was going to be too young for me and the rare Sarah Beth Durst book that didn’t really grab me. And then it grabbed me.

Yes, the characters are young – and aimed at young readers – but their adventure gets more complex as they go and acquire real consequences, and they learn some valuable lessons. I thoroughly enjoyed this once it got going, and even the details I at first found ridiculous ended up fitting and feeling right by the end.

My one quibble is that the plot twists are very predictable — I saw each one coming from a mile away. Now, young readers might not, having not read as many books, but I feel like it could have been a bit more subtle.

Overall very enjoyable and I think kids will love it. Even getting stuck transformed into a skunk (complete with requisite skunk stink humor), Jeremy’s obsession with soda and farmcats card game, the details and displacement of the magical world, the flying surfboards… It’s a lot of fun. I’ll definitely be reading it to my 7 year old soon.

It also deftly handles such issues as the problem with hurting people while thinking you’re doing what’s best for them (without consulting them) and what it’s like to be a refugee when your home is destroyed by a natural (or not-so-natural) disaster. And that you don’t have to wait until you’re grown up to be a hero and save the day (and sometimes even the grownups don’t know what to do, and sometimes they lie because they think it’s best for you).

*Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for providing an e-arc to review.

ARC Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

The Wolf and the Woodsman

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This is one I absolutely thought I would enjoy, as a fairy tale with beautiful writing is one of the things I most enjoy in a book. And yet….

I don’t know. Sometimes the writing was quite beautiful, and sometimes it was just that little bit strange that made the words tangle and trip me up.

I actively disliked the characters from the beginning, and that never changed. They became slightly more interesting once they were separated from the others and became closer, but they still mostly just irritated me.

I wasn’t interested in the brutal religions and that ended up being a lot of what the story was about.

It’s just not for me, I think. However I can see it being popular with others who don’t mind the characters and writing style.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Avon Harper Voyager for providing an e-arc to review.

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