ARC Review: The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian (The Queer Principles of Kit Webb #2)

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Publishing Date: June 7, 2022

Synopsis:

Cat Sebastian returns to Georgian London with a stunning tale of a reluctant criminal and the thief who cannot help but love her.

Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, just shot her husband. Of course, the evil, murderous man deserved what was coming to him, but now she must flee to the countryside. Unfortunately, the only person she can ask for help is the charismatic criminal who is blackmailing her—and who she may have left tied up a few hours before…

A highwayman, con artist, and all-around cheerful villain, Rob Brooks is no stranger to the wrong side of the law or the right side of anybody’s bed. He never meant to fall for the woman whose secrets he promised to keep for the low price of five hundred pounds, but how could he resist someone who led him on a merry chase all over London, left him tied up in a seedy inn, and then arrived covered in her husband’s blood and in desperate need of his help?

As they flee across the country—stopping to pick pockets, drink to excess, and rescue invalid cats—they discover more true joy and peace than either has felt in ages. But when the truth of Rob’s past catches up to him, they must decide if they are willing to reshape their lives in order to forge a future together.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book is EVERYTHING. I live and breathe books and I would be happy to never read another book and just live in this one. It’s that good. But more than that it’s the perfect book for me. Like Cat Sebastian knew it’s been rough lately and wrote it just for me. I’m predicting it makes it at least into my top 5 books this year.

It’s a cleverly disguised Robin Hood and Marian book. It’s the perfect Robin Hood and Marian book. I want to paper my walls in quotes from this book (and I probably highlighted enough to do just that – a full 11 single-spaced pages of them!!) and just live in this story from now on. Is this because I love Robin Hood stories? Yes, partly. But also I love queer love stories and Cat Sebastian’s writing in general, and the Queer Principles of Kit Webb in particular, so this was just the happy convergence of all of my favorite things.

This is an excellent queer love story. Both leads are bisexual and Marian is probably some flavor of asexual and the dynamic is very much a dominant/aggressive/in charge Marian and a submissive Rob who only wants to please her. That stable scene! She pins him against the wall! Flip the gender status quo of historical romance why don’t you? I LOVE it.

I love how Marian is the prickly and closed-off and responsible one in this relationship, and Rob is friendly and charming and is distracted by kittens. And, now that I think of it, this is yet another case of me falling completely for a grumpy / sunshine trope.

Another reviewer pointed out that this book in a nutshell is ‘disaster bisexuals’ and ‘be gay do crime’ with a side of ‘eat the rich’ and if that isn’t Marian and Rob I don’t know what is. I can’t top that as a description.

I see hints of future books of ‘be gay do crime’ and i just want to say YES PLEASE. And baby Eliza will be raised by four doting queer parents and immersed in planning of heists before she can talk. I desperately want more books in this world, with these people.

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

Favorite Quotes:

**Note: I highlighted literally 11 single-spaced pages of quotes so obviously I can’t include them all here. I have consolidated as much as possible but it will still be rather long. But trust me – you want to read these. They will absolutely make you want to read this book.

Although, if you don’t want to read them, that’s fine too. This is the last section of the review for a reason.

What a trick it was to be able to say I beg your pardon in a way that meant fuck off and die, and to look serene and saintly while saying it.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

The memory made him feel both wistful and somehow homesick, in the way that happy memories too often did.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

“I think we’re still in the cave, hitting one another with sticks,” Rob went on. “I know that I broke the law when I stole from those arseholes at the tavern this afternoon. But how is what I did any different from putting poor men into debtors’ prison? What I did is comparatively gentle. A targeted tax on rich men who behave badly. It’s very civilized, actually.”

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

He was lost, and he had been from about the first time she sent him a scathing letter –what kind of person did that to a man who held her future in the palm of his hand? – and followed it up with trivia about that Italian fellow and his peculiarly organized version of hell.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

“In the winter, you can imagine that the land could become anything. In the summer, all that’s left is for winter to come.”

Rob had never heard anyone express anything of the sort and didn’t know what to say, or even to think, beyond reflecting that if anyone were to enjoy an uninterrupted view of mud and dirt it would have to be Marian.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

She moved so slowly and deliberately it was as if she were inventing the concept of kissing right there on the spot, as precisely as if she were counting change in the marketplace. He kissed her back with none of those qualities, with nothing but profligacy.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

He wore rainwater and mud the way other men wore silk coats, only better, and she wanted him.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

And now he was looking at her as if she were a cake, if cakes were also religious icons, and she was possessed of a mortifying certainty that she was looking at him in precisely the same deranged manner.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

Rob knew better than most that sometimes nothing could salve your conscience. You just had to live with the guilt and find other ways to be the kind of person you wanted to be.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

But when she looked at him, what she felt wasn’t attraction. Or it wasn’t only that. It was a bright spark, something warm and glowing that took up residency in her chest and refused to budge. It was something like contentment, only sharp and with teeth. It was the urge to wrap her hand around his arm and not let go. It was the knowledge that he would let her.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

The idea that she was planning to go into mourning for a man she had killed with her own hands, while – regardless of what she said – robbing, extorting, or otherwise dealing feloniously with another man, made Rob feel faintly dizzy.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

“Gentlemen typically don’t extort money from their tenants,” Marian retorted.

“That is precisely what gentlemen do,” he pointed out, exasperated. “It is practically the entire point of gentlemen.”

She opened her mouth as if to protest, then frowned. “Fair.”

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

It was a dark day indeed when he wanted to congratulate an aristocrat for simply remembering that servants were human beings.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

In his arms she felt as sharp as a knife and as sure as a promise and he never wanted to take his hands off her.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

And he didn’t try to hold it back, either. His friendship was like a creeping ivy – all one had to do was let it be, and it covered the whole barn.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

From where she lay, she could see at least half a dozen scars on his arms and back. He spoke of them as if he didn’t mind them, and she thought she understood – what were the pair of them, after all, but a collection of things gone wrong and then, slowly, made right again.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

“Well, she did leave me tied to a bed all night,” Rob offered as an explanation.

“It’s how I make all my friends,” said Betty.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

“Running away?” Rob scoffed. “I’m not running away from anything. I’m refusing to participate in inherited wealth.”

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

“They’d suit you perfectly well if it were twenty years ago.” He sank into a chair by the fire. “And if you were a provincial spinster who drank tea without any sugar and terrified all the neighborhood children.”

Marian, momentarily impressed with this aesthetic success, preened a little before remembering why she needed to speak to Percy.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

He wore a blue suit of clothes so fine that Rob wanted to set things on fire.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

 It would not, however, accommodate Marian’s father and his household, and indeed the idea of cramming an elderly earl, a highwayman, a baby, the bigamous wife of a duke, and whatever on earth Percy considered himself these days under one roof was too farcical for Marian to take seriously.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

She was certain that most women felt something warmer for their children, something less sharp and jagged. Marian wasn’t much given to warmth, but whatever she felt now – a champagne lightness mixed with the usual knife-sharp protectiveness – felt like enough.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

Her laughter was rare and precious; it was the sound of church bells, the sound of coins dropping into a pocket, and he wanted to save it in a bottle and wear it close to his heart.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

ARC Review: Vows of Empire (Bloodright Trilogy #3) by Emily Skrutskie

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Synopsis:

Two young princes on opposite sides of a war must decide between loyalty and love in this galaxy-shaking finale of the Bloodright Trilogy.

Gal and Ettian have never been farther apart. Once, they were roommates and best friends, each suffocating under a secret of galactic consequence. When Gal’s came to light—that he was heir to the Umber Empire and all of its brutal conquest—the two were forced to flee their military academy, fall in with a brewing rebellion to reclaim the Archon Empire from Umber’s grasp, and face their long-held feelings for each other.

Then the rebellion discovered Gal’s identity and to save his life, Ettian had no choice but to unveil his own secret: that he was the long-lost heir to the Archon throne. With Gal as a political prisoner, Ettian began the fight to restore his own empire—and to open Gal’s eyes to the possibility of a galaxy reclaimed from Umber’s greed. But just when Gal was starting to come around, a team of Umber operatives rescued him from Archon’s clutches and dragged him home to take up his crown.

Now, separated for the first time and in full command of the might of their respective forces, the star-crossed rulers find themselves truly at odds. And with the war reaching a tipping point, the time has finally come for Gal and Ettian to confront what they owe their empires, their friends, and each other if they’re ever to forge a universe where the two of them can be together.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Now THIS is how you end a trilogy that’s been nothing but one plot twist and con after another with a bang.

I fell in love with Ettian and Gal and Wen from the very beginning of Bonds of Brass. The writing style employed in these novels is easy and conversational and personal, making incredibly good use of first person perspective. The story races along at full tilt with plots and secrets and betrayals and counter betrayals and ‘wait-that’s-not-actually-a-betrayal’s slotting into place and never quiiiiite spinning out of control, but only just.

The first book was Ettian-focused, and the second Gal-focused, but in this one there’s a nice balance of the two and also a look into Wen and a growing familiarity with the utter chaos that is the Wraiths.

If I can just quote from my review of the second book in the trilogy (Oaths of Legacy) for a moment:


“…if I could read about Wen going off-script with a mad slap-dash plan and Ettian caring too much and Gal “fed up to here with these two idiots but don’t anyone dare touch them” emp-Umber attempting to manipulate everyone forever I totally would… “

Same, past self. Same.

After absolutely flying through this final book at a breakneck pace I can say that I am completely satisfied with the ending. It’s the best ending these characters could have dreamed up. It is everything I wanted (and several things I didn’t know I wanted). The plot twists and surprises and long cons nearly killed me several times over as I read, in the best way possible.

I love a good twisty plot where the characters are pulling multiple cons on each other and ALSO on the reader, and this trilogy definitely delivers, with moments that made me gasp and moments that made me want to cheer as things fell into place.

I am in awe of Emily Skrutskie’s plotting skills and also will read absolutely anything she writes because this trilogy and these characters have completely stolen my heart.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

I open the door, and there he is. The person I took a crown for. The person I’d take another bullet for, knowing exactly how agonizing it feels to have your guts shredded.

Vows of Empire by Emily Skrutskie

I’m not an emperor. Not overseeing a system that encompasses. billions of lives and hopes to reclaim billions more. I’m just a dumbass trying to close a goddamn door.

Vows of Empire by Emily Skrutskie

“What do you think I’m asking?” she replied—always with that tone of mischief. Pissed me the hell off when we first met. I wanted to shake her by the shoulders and go We can’t both be the fun one.

Vows of Empire by Emily Skrutskie

But that little taste of humanity was never meant to be permanent. We were always going to be dragged back to our higher destiny. It’s another thing entirely to be a man with nothing but a ship and the love of your life, standing on the shore of just one of the galaxy’s many oceans, wondering what the point of you is.

Vows of Empire by Emily Skrutskie

ARC Review: The Servant and the Gentleman by Annabelle Greene

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Summary:

A surly gentleman and his overworked clerk fake a relationship in this swoonworthy Regency romance from Annabelle Greene.

William Hartley’s wealth and social standing often make up for his short temper, but they can’t cure his claustrophobia. He’d lost hope of finding help for it, until meeting Josiah Balfour. In a moment of panic, Josiah’s presence is a balm to his senses, leaving Hartley calm for the first time in months.

Josiah Balfour knows his place—and it’s not in the bed of a gentleman. As the administrator for the Society of Beasts, he’s responsible for the club’s well-being. When a threat to the Society emerges from an unexpected quarter, it falls to Josiah to deal with it. But Hartley is willing to help, even if it involves posing as a couple to infiltrate a rival club.

Josiah needs Hartley’s prestige to help him save the Society, while Hartley simply needs Josiah. Their relationship might be a sham, but the desire between them is all too real. Stuck in close quarters with everything they love on the line, they discover that everything might just include each other. 

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this thoughtful and romantic story. The fake dating across class boundaries was fun, and Josiah helping Hartley fend off his PTSD was well done. There were so many sweet moments as the two of them fell for one another (while pretending they hadn’t because it was impossible), as well as the perfect amount of wry humor.

The writing was lovely and the heavier topics (class boundaries, protecting those accused of loving other men, money and power, PTSD from a traumatic event) deftly and thoughtfully handled. There were a few more sex scenes than I usually like, but I was enjoying the story so much I didn’t mind skimming them.

My favorite thing about it is the way Hartley and Josiah relate to one another and push one another to be better. Hartley is a bit of a Darcy – he doesn’t really see anyone he considers ‘lower’ than himself and Josiah pushes him to open his eyes to all that he’s been ignoring. Watching Hartley slowly work to change was very satisfying. Hartley in turn pushes Josiah to have more confidence in himself.

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

Favorite Quotes:

…Josiah joined him, lying down beside him, his face so full of long-suppressed emotion that it could have been a poem.

ARC Review: A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Synopsis:

A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Manda Collins!

When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was Everything. I am aware that I say that… not infrequently, but when I love things, I really love them. And this… I had high hopes, because lets be honest, I love everything Alexis Hall writes, but this was so much more.

Regency romance? check. Loads of pining? check. Loads of queer and unconventional characters? check.

I’ve read books like that before, of course. Not many, not nearly as many as I would like, but there are some. But I’ve never read one with a trans main character, and I didn’t anticipate how deeply it would hit me, as a nonbinary person who, like Viola, has struggled with my identity and my body and my desire.

Viola Caroll is strong and determined and fierce and deeply, painfully relatable. She is unapologetically herself and I love her for that. Gracewood accepts her and loves her as she is and it’s possibly the most revolutionary idea in the whole book. Most dukes would not be so accepting, I think — although Gracewood has spent his life trying to break free of the idea of what a duke can be so maybe it’s not so surprising. Surprising or not, it makes for a beautiful love story.

This falls more on the angsty side than the humorous side, unlike many of Alexis Hall’s other works, though it is still funny in parts. It’s what I was in the mood for, though, so it worked out. The writing is, as I have come to expect, absolutely gorgeous. I highlighted so many passages, and I know I will be returning to it again. I just hope we get a sequel – Mira’s story would be an excellent candidate.

This book also touches on grief, child abuse, addiction, and chronic pain, and tackles these topics gracefully. The characters are flawed and human and real, even the side characters. And, more than anything, it shows the deep love and acceptance between the characters, despite their flaws. I loved every minute of it.

— update 5/28/22—

I have now listened to the audio arc and can say that the narrator performs the story beautifully, though I had my doubts in the first few minutes. The character voices are distinct and easy to understand and fit the characters’ personalities and the emotion and humor come through perfectly (which is good, because this story is all about a lot of emotion).

*Thanks to NetGalley, Forever (Grand Central Publishing), and Hachette Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

“What other options? Men and women are permitted to interact in three ways: marriage, ruination, and polite indifference.”

“She’s a seventeen-year-old girl. She should be in London, having love affairs with unsuitable young men in a controlled environment. Not stuck in a mouldering fortress miles from anywhere.”

It made Viola feel oddly safe, this reminder that everyone lived their own illusions, chose their own truths, performed their own quiet magic before indifferent crowds.

She turned slowly, in case she scattered into dried leaves and dust.

“Loubear,” whispered Badger. “You have to be quiet when you’re eavesdropping. Otherwise it’s just a logistically difficult conversation.”

Viola was not certain that be virtuous, because vice is too much bother was quite the lesson a young gentleman was meant to be learning in these days of reason and enlightenment, but she let it go.

But there was a larger loneliness, one that came from inhabiting a space she’d had no choice but to build for herself, only to find that nobody could inhabit it with her.

As though he had become a man in a fable: lain with the wild ocean and woken, salt-stricken, forever changed, upon an unfamiliar shore.

“Suffering isn’t something we earn, Gracewood. It’s something we bear.”

Because that was the truth of trust. It was neither weak nor fleeting. It was steel and fire. And would endure as long as you let it.

Besides, it would not have done to read his sister’s intimate correspondence when there were ladies to do it for him.

The night beyond the city was mild and clear, the landscape a silvered forever—mirror-smooth fields, the ribbon twist of an occasional stream, ash trees, in curly-headed silhouette, cast like images from a magic lantern against the sky.

The night had been long and fraught and could have ended badly in so many ways. Could, in fact, end badly regardless. But still. What a marvel it was. What freedom. To be a woman unabashedly in love beneath a multitude of stars.

ARC Review: A Daring Pursuit by Kate Bateman

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Synopsis:

The Davies and Montgomery families have been locked in an ancient feud. But it’s a thin line between love and hate in Kate Bateman’s A Daring Pursuit.

TWO ENEMIES
Carys Davies is doing everything in her power to avoid marriage. Staying single is the only way to hide the secret that could ruin her—and her family—if it was revealed. For the past two seasons she’s scandalized the ton with her outrageous outfits and brazen ways in a futile bid to deter potential suitors. Outwardly confident and carefree, inside she’s disillusioned with both men and love. There’s only one person who’s never bought her act—the only man who makes her heart race: Tristan Montgomery, one of her family’s greatest rivals.

ONE SCANDALOUS BARGAIN
Wickedly proper architect Tristan needs a respectable woman to wed, but he’s never stopped wanting bold, red-headed Carys. When she mockingly challenges him to show her what she’s missing by not getting married, Tristan shocks them both by accepting her indecent proposal: one week of clandestine meetings, after which they’ll go their separate ways. But kissing each other is almost as much fun as arguing, and their affair burns hotter than either of them expects. When they find themselves embroiled in a treasonous plot, can they trust each other with their hearts, their secrets…and their lives?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this tension-filled enemies-to-lovers romance. Carys is fiery and passionate, Tristan is cool and collected – at least on the outside. Their families have been feuding for hundreds of years, and Maddie and Gryff’s marriage in the previous book haven’t completely mended things between their families.

I love the ‘forbidden love because of feuding families’ trope, and here it’s used excellently. Carys and Tristan are both loveable, endearing characters as well and their chemistry sizzles from the beginning. Gotta love a ‘we’re both secretly in love with each other and have been since we were kids but we pretend to hate each other and pine dramatically’ dynamic.

The one thing I didn’t love was the sheer number of sex scenes. Now, I will grant that these are included for Reasons and so in some ways they really do need to be there. But I still found myself skimming them. Which is not to say that they’re badly written – I just don’t particularly enjoy reading frequent or prolonged sex scenes. Really, the fact that I read as much of them as I did speaks to the fact that they’re actually quite well-written, and I think that people who do enjoy reading sex scenes will like them a lot.

This book also has possibly the best opening line of any romance, ever. “Lady Carys Davies dressed to meet her blackmailer in the same way she dressed for every other social occasion: scandalously.” Tell me that doesn’t make you want to read more about Lady Carys Davies.

I look forward to reading more Montgomery – Davies romances in the future and will definitely be continuing the series as soon as the next book is available.

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

Favorite Quotes:

Lady Carys Davies dressed to meet her blackmailer in the same way she dressed for every other social occasion: scandalously.

“You smile at other men, but with Tristan you glow. It’s like you come alive in his presence. You’re the fire to his ice.”

Looking at Tristan was like leaping into a frigid Welsh stream: One had to prepare.

“Then marry me. Live with me. Let me be your favorite enemy.”

ARC Review: Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels Volume 1 by Serena Blasco

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Synopsis:

A graphic novel adaptation of the hit books that inspired the Netflix film! Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant, strong-willed younger sister takes center stage in this delightfully drawn graphic novel based on Nancy Springer’s bestselling mystery series.

14-year-old Enola Holmes wakes on her birthday to discover that her mother has disappeared from the family’s country manor, leaving only a collection of flowers and a coded message book. With Sherlock and Mycroft determined to ship her off to a boarding school, Enola escapes, displaying a cleverness that even impresses the elder Holmes. But nothing prepares her for what lies ahead…
 
Book One in the series includes three thrilling mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets. At the back of the book, readers can explore a portfolio of pages from Enola’s secret notebook!

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this! I’d previously read the first Enola Holmes book and really enjoyed it, and it was fun to revisit and then follow the story of the next two.

The watercolor style was playful and expressive, giving Enola Holmes plenty of personality. It fit really well with her exuberant and determined character. I liked how the color scheme changed to fit the mood of the story, and the expressiveness of each character’s design.

The storyline was easy to follow and hit all the main points of the plot. I enjoyed seeing the excerpts from Enola’s notebook at the end of each volume.

I will look forward to future volumes and following Enola’s adventures.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing an e-arc for review.

Arc Review: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Synopsis:

Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One NightsThe Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a wild ride of stories and secrets, shocking reveals, betrayals, and allegiances that shift like the sand. And so, so much magic. I absolutely loved it.

The four characters on their quest (Louli, Mazen, Aisha, and Qadir) were all very different, and all hiding secrets, and it was so satisfying to watch them become closer and slowly reveal them. Some of them, anyway. They were all like onions, slowly peeling back the layers, offering up stories that were A truth but not always The truth. Piecing it all gradually together was very satisfying, like completing a challenging jigsaw puzzle.

I loved the djinn relics and how they tied everyone together in unexpected ways. I loved the secrets behind them, and the magic. I loved how they kept showing up where they weren’t expected and revealing new tidbits of information each time.

The story was so vast and grand and full of tales within tales and stories that aren’t only stories and truths that aren’t the whole truth that I still can’t quite wrap my head around it, and I know I will be rereading it before diving into the sequel when it comes out. And I absolutely will be reading it as soon as I can get my hands on it because that ending left me with so many questions and not nearly enough answers.

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

Favorite Quotes:

To live is a matter of belief, Omar had once told her. The wicked live longer simply because they believe themselves to be invincible.

Because Omar is family, he thought. And with family, we always try to forget.

“Such pretty lies you spin.”

But Mazen did not think it was a lie at all. To him, stories were truths painted over in gold.

This is not a story, he told himself. This is reality, and I am living it right now.

The merchant turned away with a snort. “Your honesty is a foible, Prince.” She paused. “But also a treasure. Don’t underestimate your ability to influence others.”

“We’re all afraid, Prince. The only difference between a hero and a coward is that one forgets their fear and fights, while the other succumbs to it and flees.”

Violence does not suit him, she thought, but she shoved the thought away. It did not suit anyone.

ARC Review: You’re Always Enough by Emily Ley

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Synopsis:

Emily Ley, bestselling author, founder of Simplified® planners, and mama of three, knows how perfectionism and anxiety can take a toll on anyone, especially children. Emily’s first picture book, You’re Always Enough: And More Than I Hoped For,is a special parent-child book that builds self-confidence in children by filling them with love, offering grace, and inviting them to find their own way to become who they’re meant to be

From a very early age, we learn to struggle with mistakes, fear messing up, and worry about not being good enough. But Emily Ley’s life-giving message of “grace, not perfection” gives kids the freedom to be themselves without any expectations–because they’re already fully loved and treasured just the way they are. Pairing heartwarming rhymes with a timeless art style, this picture book


Is for ages 4 to 8
Has a beautiful cover, perfect for displaying in home decor
Is a great gift for baby showers, Easter, or for any child who needs a boost in self-esteem
You’re Always Enough: And More Than I Hoped For features vibrant illustrations of a diverse cast of characters and will enhearten children who are always trying so hard, are afraid of making mistakes, or need reassurance that they are enough exactly as they are. Hold your child close as you share this sweet message and show them just how proud of the fun, amazing, and so very special person that they are.

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This was disappointing. I was looking for an uplifting, affirming book to read to my 8-year-old who has been struggling with some self-esteem issues, but this one misses the mark unfortunately.

I like that the illustrations include a lot of racial diversity and children with disabilities. And it does have some moments of really great affirming message. Those moments are undercut for me however by the overall pithy and surface-level rhyming text and the overly religious angle. I would also like to see a bit more gender diversity. The girls all have long hair and are doing ‘girl’ things and the boys are all doing ‘boy’ things and that’s just such a tired concept.

Nothing about the blurb or the listing on goodreads or NetGalley stood out to me as “this is a Christian book” but, uh, this is a Christian book. As we are not a religious family, it doesn’t resonate. I’m glad I didn’t purchase this because I would have been very disappointed.

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

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