Book Review: The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Synopsis:

Sophie loves the hidden shop below her parents’ bookstore, where dreams are secretly bought and sold. When the dream shop is robbed and her parents go missing, Sophie must unravel the truth to save them. Together with her best friend—a wisecracking and fanatically loyal monster named Monster—she must decide whom to trust with her family’s carefully guarded secrets. Who will help them, and who will betray them?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was such a cute book! I was concerned several times that it would be too scary for my 8-year-old, but the creepy and scary were balanced so well with the cute and funny that he never felt like it was too much. He was engrossed in the story every night at bedtime and when we finished he immediately asked if there was a sequel. He also had several theories and suggestions for what should happen after we finished reading each night.

I also had a lot of fun and was engrossed in the story from the beginning. Definitely one of my favorite bedtime books we’ve read in quite some time.

The magic system was really cool and unique and executed well. The story is self-contained but also leaves room for future adventures and imagining.

I have previously read and enjoyed several of Sarah Beth Durst’s other novels, and we have a few more lined up for future bedtime stories.

I would recommend it to anyone age 8 and up (or 6-7 if they can handle somewhat creepy/scary scenes) who enjoys magical adventures like Harry Potter, Nevermoor, and similar.

Book Review: Lord of Chance (Rogues to Riches #1)

https://ericaridley.com/images/covers/loc_1200x1800.jpg

Publishing Date: April 11, 2017

Synopsis:

Don’t wager more than you’re willing to lose…

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance—and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn—the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I enjoyed this very much, though not quite as much as her latest books. It was a sweet story and even though things got resolved a little too easily I’m glad I read it.

The audiobook narrator did an excellent job making it clear who was speaking. She also had a very pleasant voice to listen to.

I appreciated that gambling addiction was touched on, as well as a contrast between a childhood full of love and physical security but ostracized by society and a childhood that alternated between wealthy and poor with no security but societal approbation. These issues weren’t discussed in depth, but they were treated with care and the book wasn’t long enough or serious enough for them to be any more in depth than they were.

The relationship was a little too easy, with Charlotte and Anthony going from not knowing one another to married by accident to in love without any real emotional stepping stones, but I did appreciate that they liked one another and cared for one another pretty much from the beginning. They also were able to use their determination to care for one another to make changes in their lives which, with some convenient coincidences, set they up for comfort and security in the future.

Despite my issues with the story, I enjoyed reading it, and I enjoyed watching the events unfold. And, of course, I really do like Erica Ridley’s writing style, which is a make or break issues for me. Everything just flows so effortlessly in her writing, without the stiltedness or tangled prose one finds in certain other authors of the genre.

*Thanks to Erica Ridley for providing a copy for review.

Book Reviews: Erica Ridley’s Dukes of War #3, 5, 2

Dukes of War #3: The Captain’s Bluestocking Mistress by Erica Ridley

The Captain's Bluestocking Mistress (The Dukes of War, #3)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Apparently I read this 6 years ago and gave it 3 stars because I was dumb and thought “oh romance novels can’t have more than 3 stars because how do I compare them to the literary greats?” smh. I wish I could tell my past self that you don’t have to compare your favorite romance novels to Charles Dickens: there are different ways to be great. shocker.

Anyway. This book was lovely. My absolute favorite thing about Erica Ridley’s books is that she consistently imbues her characters with so much life and personality in such a short space (and usually a short time period as well). Xavier and Jane leap off the page – not to mention Egui, who does his share of leaping even on-page – and endeared themselves to me very quickly. The premise is tropey but the execution gives it so much more gravity and oomph than might be expected. I read it in one sitting and was absolutely delighted with it the whole way through.

Dukes of War #5: The Brigadier’s Runaway Bride by Erica Ridley

The Brigadier's Runaway Bride (The Dukes of War #5)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really wasn’t sure about this one at first but something kept me reading. And… I liked it, mostly. I loved the scenes with Sarah and Edmund and the twins. They were sweet and there was so much love and laughter there. It was very heartwarming. The scenes where Sarah and Edmund kept pulling away from each other over what was really a very small misunderstanding that could have been cleared up in a few sentences of discussion (instead of stretched out into a novel of back and forth plot) were… tedious. But the family scenes made up for it, hence the four stars.

Dukes of War #2: The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower by Erica Ridley

The Earl's Defiant Wallflower (The Dukes of War #2)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was cute but I was never completely invested in the romance. It was too much lust and ‘he wants to save her’ and then ‘she wants to save him because she’ll be leaving.’ And the ending resolved with almost all the important events happening pretty much off-screen which was disappointing and made the whole story a bit hollow.

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)

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.

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.

Book Review: White Stag by Kara Barbieri

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I bought this after reading Wintersong and falling in love with that version of the Erlking. I had high hopes for it, but I also was turned off after buying it and seeing the content warnings in reviews. They’re the sort that usually turn me away from a book, but I decided to give it a go. And, for whatever reason, the content being warned actually didn’t bother me in this book.

The story was very good, but could have used a bit more work. The worldbuilding and magic explanations were scarce, and I came away feeling rather like it was ACOTAR on ice. The relationship between Janneke and Soren was a VERY large part of the book, and while I love a good fantasy romance, I also love a good fantasy worldbuilding, which this one lacked.

Towards the end, though, things picked up story-wise and I was left mostly satisfied. I loved the ending twist and that helped shape my overall opinion of this book.

I’ll be reading the ARC of the sequel in the next week or so, and it will be interesting to see where the story goes and if the worldbuilding improves.

Book Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this. Like the House of Shattered Wings series this has a strong Vietnamese influence, but this is set in space.

Our protagonist is a mindship who exists both in space and as an avatar projected to rooms where she interacts with humans. She makes tea blends that are carefully tailored to each customer. She becomes fascinated by a new customer and ends up going to retrieve a dead body and helping solve a murder mystery. All the while dealing with seeming attraction to said customer – a brash, drugged, brilliant consulting detective – and past trauma.

I would read a novel or even a series of these characters happily – they grew on me very quickly and were intriguing as a pair. Very Sherlock Holmes-esque.

I also love Aliette de Boddard’s writing style. It’s dense and all the Vietnamese inspired names and terms make reading it a bit difficult, not to mention the way things are hinted at but seldom said outright – like wading through knee-deep water instead of breezing along the shore – but I love it just the same. Or maybe because? I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m adding her to my auto-buy list.

Book Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clark

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was such a fabulous book! It’s magical and mysterious and I’m so glad I opted for the audiobook, because the narrator was absolutely fantastic and really brought Piranesi to life.

I’m in love with the setting – who wouldn’t want to live in an endless labyrinthine house full of statues with tides rushing through it’s lower halls? Piranesi felt such joy and love for the House that he made me love it too. He also seems to believe that it can communicate to him through the birds that wheel about the halls – he watches which statues they land on and then tries to extrapolate a meaning.

There are nagging discrepancies that clued me in early on that everything was not as it seemed on the surface. It all centered around the Other, Piranesi’s only friend and the only other person alive in the house. (There are 13 skeletons, but they are obviously not alive, even though Piranesi brings them offerings of food and makes sure they remain in good order.)

But the Other has stylish, polished clothing where Piranesi’s clothes are worn to rags. The Other sometimes brings him things like vitamins and new shoes. (Piranesi subsists on a diet of fish and seaweed, as these are the only foodstuffs the House provides.) The Other is brusque and preoccupied with rituals that Piranesi does not understand and has little interest in.

The story is slow and beautiful and moves like the tides that rush through the halls of the House then recede. The characters are intriguing, more so as the story progresses and the inconsistencies and discrepancies add up. There’s this sense of peace and discovery and awe and wonder at the House that the main character (who is Piranesi but also not) feels and it bleeds into everything we discover.

The audiobook narrator is fabulous, the story engaging and mysterious, and it feels so intimate and cozy. Like I’m just sitting by a fire with Piranesi as he recounts his adventures to me. I love his heart and his empathy and his kindness, especially as they’re contrasted with Ketterly’s brusque indifferent egotism.

My only complaint is that it isn’t longer. I would listen to this story if it were ten times as long with pleasure.

ARC Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book  – publishing October 6 2020 – is so wonderful. It’s a lovely romance, but it’s also a love letter to the fanfic community and writing fanfic that captures the beauty and possibility of it. As I also have found community through fic there were so many passages I just wanted to hug the book to my chest I loved it so much. It’s geeky and heartfelt and just warms my heart.

My first impression – besides the fanfic parts that I loved – was that it had too much sex. This isn’t unusual for a romance and usually it’s just that I’m uncomfortable with all the sex since I’m ace. I want the emotional connection and closeness of a romance instead of the physical connection.

However I am willing to make allowances for this story.

April is fat and has been fat-shamed her whole life by family and friends and boyfriends. She has so much self-confidence and is defiantly in love with her body and it’s beautiful. She knows her body and revels in it and the pleasure it brings – and since she does have a history of being fatshamed I’m willing to accept that the sex showing both her and her partner (Marcus) absolutely loving her body is in fact necessary to the story.

Marcus is dyslexic and has been shamed for it for so long that he adopted a ‘beautiful and dumb as a rock’ persona that he has hidden behind his entire career. But he’s not dumb – he’s very intelligent and thoughtful and I love how April slowly helps him become more confident in himself.

Also they both write fanfic and actually met by beta-ing one another’s fics and becoming close fandom friends long before their in-person meeting. She writes gleefully smutty fics and he writes unapologetcally angsty fics and there are snippets of their past conversations and fics scattered through the book.

Also! He’s 40 and she’s 36 and they are both such avid members of the fanfic community and I think that’s beautiful and realistic – fandom is not in fact a place only for teenagers.

Their relationship is such a warm and supportive one and it’s so refreshing to read in a romance. I will *definitely* be picking up the sequel — which is about Marcus’ hilarious friend Alex and is called Slow Burn so I kind of have to.

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

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