ARC Review: Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was… Creepy. Far too creepy for me, tbh, but also very good. I expected creepy after Erin Craig’s first book, but this one took it to the next level. It reminded me a lot of the movie The Village, with some fairy tales / lore mixed in.

Ellerie was a strong heroine, though her habit of almost realizing something important and then being distracted from it and forgetting for several chapters was a bit annoying. Whitaker was rather too perfect and had a tinge of heartache and desperation that it took a long time for Ellerie to see.

It was also a bit… gory. I really wasn’t expecting that. So, like I said, it was really well-written and a good story, just not really one I would normally read. It also wrapped up rather quickly / easily, after dragging on a bit too long, though it’s a stronger ending than in her first book.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: When a Duke Loves a Governess by Olivia Drake

When a Duke Loves a Governess (Unlikely Duchesses, #3)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This book was enjoyable. I love storylines where the Duke in question has unruly children and someone must step in and save them — and then he falls for her. Gets me every time. I loved how Tessa stands her ground when her newfound family tries to sweep her off her feet without consulting her for what she wants. I loved that the Duke in question would much rather be sailing the world on scientific expeditions or writing a book about said expeditions. While bluestocking women are everywhere in historical romance, it’s a much rarer thing for the man to be scholarly. There was even a bit of a mystery.

So, with all of that, I should have loved it. But… I didn’t. I enjoyed it, but I skimmed parts. this was 100% due to the writing style which was a little clumsier and less eloquent than I prefer. Also while I normally skim or skip the sex scenes, I did so here because the way they were written made me cringe. The mystery also was wrapped up a tad too quickly, and the story in general could have stood to be longer.

I would definitely recommend it to people who don’t care about writing style, but it’s definitely a make or break issue for me.

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

Art Books ARC Review: Drawing is for Everyone by Kateri Ewing and Mixed Media Color Studio by Kellee Wynne Conrad

Drawing Is for Everyone: Simple Lessons to Make Your Creative Practice a Daily Habit - Explore Infinite Creative Possibilities in Graphite, Colored Pencil, and Ink

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed reading through this book and getting ideas for future drawings and techniques. In some ways it’s a simple book, but I think it’s also pretty profound and the seemingly-simple exercises could lead to some very beautiful things. I am especially eager to try out the Pocket Treasure Collage with its intriguing mix of realistic renderings of objects and abstract designs, and also the Word Play exercise. I also found the lessons on creating value with pencils and a light touch especially enlightening. I am definitely guilty of pressing too hard with my pencil and creating shiny areas. I can see these exercises (and the others) transforming my artistic process and the resulting art will certainly be better for it.

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

Mixed Media Color Studio: Explore Modern Color Theory to Create Unique Palettes and Find Your Creative Voice--Play with Acrylics, Pastels, Inks, Graphite, and More

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m going to have to really sit with this one for a bit and come back to it again, there’s so much there to process. There are some incredibly insightful thoughts on color and how to use it, and so many tips I plan to incorporate into my own work. My mind was blown when the author compared colors to a value scale ranging from yellow to purple (lightest to darkest). Mind. Blown. That’s an exercise I will have to do immediately. Some of the example pieces really spoke to me and I think if I contemplate them for a while I’ll have a much better understanding of the colors that speak to me.

Overall, an excellent, engaging read that I will come back to again and again.

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

ARC Review of Flash Fire by TJ Klune (With Bonus Review of The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune)

Flash Fire by T.J. Klune

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I almost DNFed this because the secondhand embarrassment at the beginning was brutal and I came away from the first book ambivalent about the characters. I’m glad I stuck with it though, because somehow they grew on me and what had previously annoyed me became sort of… endearing?

I really liked the way Nick’s dad had to face the things he’d done and that his role as a police officer was not as shiny as he (and Nick) had believed. There was a thoughtful discussion of what it means to be a police officer and what the police mean to different people.

There were some very sweet moments, and some embarassing ones (with Nick, there probably always will be) and dangit I went from being completely meh about the series to having to read the next book. (I’m totally not mad about that).

I love TJ Klune’s writing, even when it is embarassing, because it’s real and authentic and also lifts up the people who might not always be lifted up. It’s also just excellent writing and a pleasure to read.

I was running late with this arc review (oops) so I ended up listening to the audiobook and the narrator did a really excellent job capturing Nick’s personality (and his friends too, but let’s face it, Nick’s personality kind of takes over. A lot.)

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

Bonus Review of The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was good. I didn’t like it as much as I expected, given that the author is T.J. Klune, but it was still good. Nick was a little too young and oblivious, and I didn’t much like his dad. Come on, checking to see that he swallowed his pill? Locking the pills up in a safe? That was a bit much. I also saw most of the plot twists coming from a mile away, though there were a few details that I didn’t expect.

I’m not a big fan of the superhero genre, and that could be part of why it didn’t really work for me. I had to speed up the audiobook because I was more focused on getting through it than enjoying it which is telling. Honestly I would probably have dnfed except that I have an arc of the sequel and so needed to finish it. That said the friendship group is good, there are a lot of funny moments, and it’s definitely an interesting take on superheroes.

Book & Audiobook Review: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (Dangerous Damsels, #1)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I haven’t had this much fun with a novel since I discovered Terry Pratchett! It’s clever and hilarious and zany – really the only possible descriptor – and I absolutely adored it.

Proper Victorian ladies who are also ruthless pirates who fly (their houses! other people’s houses!) into battle and calmly shoot their enemies whilst drinking tea and reading books. I never knew I wanted it but it’s clearly what my heart has been wishing for. I couldn’t stop laughing at the constant witty (and ridiculous) prose.

Plus, look at that cover! Isn’t it just freaking gorgeous? Also, the audiobook narrator did an excellent job capturing the humor and characters. This one is absolutely going to be one of my top reads of the year.

I can’t wait for the next book and I only hope we get more of Cecelia and Ned (and the other lady pirates of course)

ARC Review: Out of Character by Annabeth Albert (audiobook)

Out of Character (True Colors #2)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 stars

I knew I would enjoy this, after the first book, but I think I liked this one even better. There was something about Jasper’s reluctant trust and Milo’s shy earnestness that made me warm to them quickly.

This was perhaps my favorite second-chance romance, with an intense childhood friendship that, after a break, became an intense romance. Their past pulled each of them in hard, and it was a joy to watch them reconnect and rediscover how well they went together.

It helped that Milo wasn’t the only one who had issues to work on. While he ditched his friends and worked on gathering the courage to come out, Jasper had to face his own tendency to steamroll others in his grand plans and had to learn to take a step back and really listen and see people.

The Odyssey game framework worked really well for this romance as well, with the cosplay giving Milo courage (eventually) and the patterns of the game helping Jasper see solutions.

The audiobook was excellently narrated and though I was skeptical at first I came to really enjoy both the narrator who voiced Jasper’s chapters and the narrator who voiced Milo’s. They each infused their performace with a lot of heart and Jasper and Milo (and their friends) leapt off the page.

All in all it was an excellent listen and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I eagerly await Annabeth Albert’s next book.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for providing an audio arc for review.

ARC Review: Manga Artists’ Copic Marker Coloring Techniques

Manga Artists Copic Marker Colouring Techniques

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve just gotten into alcohol markers (though I haven’t bought my first Copic yet) and I hoped this book would give some tips and insights into how best to use them. And it did – but its usefulness was somewhat lessened (for me) because each color was referred to only with the Copic numbering system.

It would have been easy to make it accessible to those who don’t have those specific colors by saying something like: “Use copic #xxxx or your lightest warm gray” rather than simply “use copic #xxxx.”

And yes, I get that Copic is in the title, but still.

I loved the illustrations showing different styles and techniques, and I definitely learned some tips I will be trying out immediately.

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

ARC Review: Dead Dukes Tell No Tales by Catherine Stein

Dead Dukes Tell No Tales by Catherine  Stein

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure about this book at first because I have learned to be wary of steampunk novels but this? This is fantastic! The writing is flawless and the characters are real and vividly drawn.

I immediately fell for fierce ex-pirate Sabine, bumbling reluctant Duke Cliff, and adorable spider-loving Lola. I was completely hooked for the entirety of the treasure hunt and burgeoning romance, and Cliff’s letter hit me like a punch to the gut. I will definitely be seeking out more books from this author. Actually, I would love to see a companion novel about Yvette.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Steam Cat Press, and BookBuzz.net for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was so excited to read this, as I have loved all of Elizabeth Lim’s other books. This book was a bit slow to start and Shiori initially difficult to like, but as I got further into the story I came to love her and respect her. She went through a lot over the course of this tale, and I look forward to seeing her future adventures.

I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the past and seeing Bandur’s origin as a demon. I wonder if we’ll see how he gets cursed to guard Lapsur in the future books?

I’m definitely intrigued by the dragons, and I’m excited to see what their world is like. Seryu was such an interesting character here and it was clear he was undergoing some changes off-page. I have a feeling there’s a LOT for Elizabeth Lim to explore there.

I especially loved Shiori’s relationship with her brothers, which the transformation into cranes improved, and her friendship with Takkan and Megari. There were definitely some characters that it’s easy to hate, although by the end not all is as it at first seems.

All told, an excellent adventure that transforms Shiori from a thoughtless and selfish girl into an incredibly strong young woman who values the people around her as her younger self never did. I can’t wait to get lost in the next one.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing an e-arc for review.

Midyear Favorites Roundup

Since we’re nearly halfway through the year, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of my favorite reads of the year so far. And since I’m terribly indecisive, I ended up with top 6 new-to-me and top 6 rereads.

New to Me:

  1. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
  2. The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison
  3. A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark
  4. The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian
  5. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
  6. Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson

Hmmm. Now that I’m thinking about it, these are all very queer.

  • Chosen and the Beautiful – bisexual lead, queer and straight relationships, cast of queer characters (who are also terrible people)
  • Witness for the Dead – gay lead, some brief allusions to past relationship and hints of potential future relationship
  • Master of Djinn – lesbian lead and relationship
  • Queer Principles of Kit Webb – gay lead and relationship
  • One Last Stop – bisexual lead and lesbian relationship, cast of queer characters
  • Broken – OK, this one isn’t queer so much as about mental illness (depression and anxiety mostly)

Rereads

  1. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
  2. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  3. The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
  4. Ashlords by Scott Reintgen
  5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn-Jones
  6. Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
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