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ARC Review: City of Shattered Light by Claire Winn

Book Cover

Synopsis:

As darkness closes in on the city of shattered light, an heiress and an outlaw must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other.

As heiress to a powerful tech empire, seventeen-year-old Asa Almeida strives to prove she’s more than her manipulative father’s shadow. But when he uploads her rebellious sister’s mind to an experimental brain, Asa will do anything to save her sister from reprogramming—including fleeing her predetermined future with her sister’s digitized mind in tow. With a bounty on her head and a rogue A.I. hunting her, Asa’s getaway ship crash-lands in the worst possible place: the neon-drenched outlaw paradise, Requiem.

Gun-slinging smuggler Riven Hawthorne is determined to claw her way up Requiem’s underworld hierarchy. A runaway rich girl is exactly the bounty Riven needs—until a nasty computer virus spreads in Asa’s wake, causing a citywide blackout and tech quarantine. To get the payout for Asa and save Requiem from the monster in its circuits, Riven must team up with her captive.

Riven breaks skulls the way Asa breaks circuits, but their opponent is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The A.I. exploits the girls’ darkest memories and deepest secrets, threatening to shatter the fragile alliance they’re both depending on. As one of Requiem’s 154-hour nights grows darker, the girls must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other before Riven’s city and Asa’s sister are snuffed out forever.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a vivid cyberpunk heist novel and it was so much fun! The city/moon of Requiem was a vibrant world of neon and glitter, exhaust and cybernetics, and a constant thrumming bass line. The characters were scrappy and lovable as they fell into one scrape after another just trying to get ahead. Banshee was creepy and malicious as it stalked them through the city’s ever-present tech.

I wasn’t crazy about the love triangle as they’re really not my favorite things, but I’ll take a bisexual triangle if I must have one. I also loved how delightfully queer it all was. The ending left me wanting the next one asap, which was a bit of a surprise as I didn’t realize it was going to be a series. It wasn’t too bad of a cliffhanger though.

*Thanks to NetGalley and North Star Editions, Flux for providing an e-arc for review

Blog Tour and Giveaway for Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Welcome to my stop on the Vespertine book tour with Turn The Page Book Tours. (This blog tour is also posted on my Tumblr book, art, & fandom blog Whimsical Dragonette.)

Book Info:

TITLE: Vespertine
AUTHOR: Margaret Rogerson
PUBLISHER:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
RELEASE DATE:
October 5, 2021
GENRES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Trigger warnings
[Self-harm, anxiety, disordered eating (minor), child neglect/abuse (past), trauma/PTSD (traumatic experiences in past). None of the abuse or trauma is sexual in nature. Very brief suicide mention in the epilogue, concerning a character from the past who never appears in the book.]

Synopsis:

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.

Author Bio:

Margaret Rogerson is the author of the New York Times bestsellers An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns. She has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Miami University. When not reading or writing she enjoys sketching, gaming, making pudding, and watching more documentaries than is socially acceptable (according to some). She lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, beside a garden full of hummingbirds and roses. Visit her at MargaretRogerson.com.

Author links:

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book. I mean, I expected to love this book, as I have loved each of Margaret Rogerson’s previous books, but this one was… different. It was gorgeously atmospheric and the characters and world sprang to life before my eyes. The main character struggled around people, displaying many of the traits one finds in autistic people. Many of the traits I’m quite familiar with.

Artemisia doesn’t know how to talk to people or act around them. Often, they respond to her overtures in fear or horror and she has come to hate being around people and to believe that she is incapable of befriending them.

Rathanael changes that. As she shares her consciousness with him, listening to his snarky remarks, she comes to trust him and eventually to trust a chosen few people who aren’t in her head. The experience of having him in her head changes both of them for the better and it was a delight to watch it happening.

The worldbuilding was fascinating — such a gray and miserable world of revenants and death somehow still hanging on to hope. I like where Margaret Rogerson chose to end the story — her endings can be abrupt, but this one felt right. There is still a lot of possibility left open for sequels (which I imagine there will be, as this is listed as book 1 on goodreads). Yet the main conflict was still resolved in a satisfactory way.

It wasn’t just the world that felt fully realized and fleshed out — the main characters did too. Even the recurring ones with hardly any speaking parts felt like real people that I would recognize if I passed them on the street. I’m not sure how Margaret Rogerson managed that — my vote is sorcery — but I am impressed by her craft all the same.

It’s proving a bit difficult to wrench my head away from that gray, shadowy world and back into the real world. My house is currently drenched in sunlight, which is particularly disorienting. I find myself wanting to jump back into the book and follow Artemisia and Rathanael into their next adventure.

Despite Margaret Rogerson’s comments about how she struggled with this book and how awkward she finds the writing, I thought it was beautiful. Honestly if the writing in this arc is what she considers stilted and clunky, I am even more in awe of her craft.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, and Turn the Page Tours for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

“You treat that beast better than you do yourself,” it commented sourly, watching Priestbane nose through the pile.
“He’s a good horse. He carried me all day. He doesn’t deserve to suffer because of the things I ask him to do.”
“Have you ever considered that your body carries you?”


As far as I knew, I hadn’t been making any particular expression. She was likely referring to my normal one, which I supposed, in certain lighting, could look somewhat disturbed.


“So you don’t know whether you were a man or a woman in life.”
“No, and I don’t see why it matters. Humans are so tedious. Oh, you have dangly bits. Congratulations, you’re going to put on armor and swing a sword about. Oh, you’ve ended up with the other kind. Too bad — time to either have babies or become a nun.”


I longed for my life in Naimes, where the only new people I’d had to meet had been corpses.


“No, I haven’t been trying to possess you. Tempting though the prospect was, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with your useless body aside from stumbling it around and smacking it deliriously into walls. Anything else?”


That was unsettling. My lack of contacts in Bonsaint aside, I couldn’t think of anyone who would claim me as a friend even under threat of torture.


I had been quiet, wondering whether having an evil spirit inhabiting my body might turn me into a halfway normal person.


She kept giving me pointed looks that I eventually realized were intended to communicate something to me, but I had no idea what, and the stare I sent back attempting to convey this made her blanch and flee to the other end of the hall.


“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about humans, it’s that your kind loves to gossip. Nuns are no exception, by the way. The ancient and terrible knowledge I harbor about Sister Prunelle’s bunions would make even you beg for mercy.”


“You’re mortal, nun. You aren’t perfect. In fact, for a human, you make remarkably few stupid decisions. Only rarely do I want to possess you and bash your brains out against a wall.”


Perhaps the decisions that shaped the course of history weren’t made in scenes worthy of stories and tapestries, but in ordinary places like these, driven by desperation and doubt.


“Yes,” the revenant said, after a long, ancient-feeling pause. “They were our friends.”
“Then does that mean we’re–“
“You had better not push it, nun. I can possess you whenever I want. I could do far worse than make you murder someone. I could make you try on hats.”


Giveaway Information:

Up for grabs on the book blog tour are two (2) copies of VESPERTINE by Margaret Rogerson, one a physical finished copy and one a digital copy. Open to USA only.

Giveaway starts: Monday, September 27, 2021

Giveaway ends: Saturday, October 9, 2021 at 12:00 a.m. CDT

Is Vespertine on your TBR?
Make sure to check out stops from the rest of the tour here!

ARC Review: When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles

Book Cover

Synopsis:

The competition has come to a disastrous end, and Daron Demarco’s fall from grace is now front page news. But little matters to him beyond Kallia, the contestant he fell for who is now lost to this world and in the hands of a dangerous magician. Daron is willing to do whatever it takes to find her. Even if it means embarking on a dark and treacherous journey, risking more than just his life, with no promise of return.

After awaking in darkness, Kallia has never felt more lost. Especially with Jack by her side, the magician with who has the answers but cannot be trusted. Together, they must navigate a dazzling world where mirrors show memories and illusions shadow every corner, one ruled by a powerful game master who could all too easily destroy the world she left behind — and the boy she can’t seem to forget. With time running out, Kallia must embrace her role in a darker destiny, or lose everyone she loves, forever.

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I was so disappointed in this book. I loved the first book — gave it 5 stars and actually reread it in preparation for this one and still loved it — and was really looking forward to this one, but it fell flat.

The editing was atrocious, and the writing not much better. I realize it was an arc, but it should have had *some* editing at that point. There was no reason for it to be littered with sentence fragments, missing words, jumbled phrases, and sentences that jammed together clauses that started with ‘while’ and followed with ‘though.’

It didn’t help that it was a mess of illusions and memories and not knowing what was going on. None of the characters knew, which of course left me with no idea at all. It was a confusing mess to wade through and by a quarter of the way through I was done. It didn’t help that I was just bored — there was nothing to keep me interested. The characters were unlikeable and the plot was… rather like staring down at a shattered mirror where every shard showed a piece of a different image.

edit: I went back to this to see if it would become more interesting and it did…. sort of. I read a bit and then began skimming and gave up again at 7o% . I still don’t care enough to read to the end. Things are too jumbled and confusing for it to come to a satisfactory ending.

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