Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

Audio Arc Review: Fraternity by Andy Mientus

Publication Date: September 20, 2022

Synopsis:

A queer, dark academia YA about a mysterious boarding school, a brotherhood that must stay in the shadows, and an ancient evil that could tear it all apart.

In the fall of 1991, Zooey Orson transfers to the Blackfriars School for Boys hoping for a fresh start following a scandal at his last school. However, he quickly learns that he isn’t the only student keeping a secret. Before he knows it, he’s fallen in with a group of boys who all share the same secret, one which they can only express openly within the safety of the clandestine gatherings of the Vicious Circle––the covert club for gay students going back decades. But when the boys unwittingly happen upon the headmaster’s copy of an arcane occult text, they unleash an eldritch secret so terrible, it threatens to consume them all.

A queer paranormal story set during the still-raging AIDS crisis, Fraternity examines a time not so long ago when a secret brotherhood lurked in the shadows. What would Zooey and his friends do to protect their found family?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This started slowly but little by little it picked up steam until I was on the edge of my seat. It hits hard, blending magic and all-too-real topics in a way that feels wholly natural and right. This wouldn’t be the same book if you removed the witchcraft and black magic, and it wouldn’t be the same book if you removed the talk of AIDS and conversion therapy and queerness and race. It’s queer and it’s unapologetic and it’s set so specifically in time. I was too young in 1991 to pay attention to the news, but even growing up later in the 90s I felt a sense of kinship with these characters and a sense of recognition.

The characters are distinct and well-rounded. They can be summed up in a few descriptors, or so it seems, though they are revealed over the course of the book to be more than they first appear. I enjoyed the multiple POVs, which helped me feel closer to each boy.

The villains are monstrous (in more ways than one) and the monstrous future they were pushing toward felt all-too-real, especially in light of recent events. We may be a far cry from shadowy political cults and the AIDS epidemic… but in many ways we aren’t.

This is not a happy book, and it’s not an easy one to read. There is bullying and intolerance and bigotry and evil. But there is also friendship and queer joy and community and love.

I took a while to warm up to the characters and story, and I even questioned whether I wanted to continue a few times. But by about 40% in I was thoroughly hooked and for the last several hours of the audiobook I couldn’t tear myself away from the story.

The audiobook narrators were really excellent and delivered a gripping and emotional performance. The voices they used for each character were believable and felt right, and I was more invested in the story than I would have been if I were reading it to myself.

I’m not often a fan of an author narrating their own book because they so rarely deliver a riveting performance — it’s a different skillset, narrating a book rather than writing it. But in this case Andy Mientus did a fabulous job and I highly recommend getting the audiobook version.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Recorded Books for providing an audiobook arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

She took one of us on each arm and, as we walked to our seats, I felt the kinds of looks I used to get at Blackfriars and had an unexpected pang of nostalgia. In a weird way, I’d missed feeling like a freak. Being a freak alone is tough, but being a freak arm-in-arm with your fellow freaks can feel pretty punk.

Fraternity by Andy Mientus

If we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that history lets us carry the work of those who came before us forward so that we might finish it.

Fraternity by Andy Mientus

Arc & Audio ARC Review: Aces Wild: A Heist by Amanda DeWitt

Publication Date: September 13, 2022

Synopsis:

What happens in Vegas when an all-asexual online friend group attempts to break into a high-stakes gambling club? Shenanigans ensue.

Some people join chess club, some people play football. Jack Shannon runs a secret blackjack ring in his private school’s basement. What else is the son of a Las Vegas casino mogul supposed to do?

Everything starts falling apart when Jack’s mom is arrested for their family’s ties to organized crime. His sister Beth thinks this is the Shannon family’s chance to finally go straight, but Jack knows that something’s not right. His mom was sold out, and he knows by who. Peter Carlevaro: rival casino owner and jilted lover. Gross.

Jack hatches a plan to find out what Carlevaro’s holding over his mom’s head, but he can’t do it alone. He recruits his closest friends—the asexual support group he met through fandom forums. Now all he has to do is infiltrate a high-stakes gambling club and dodge dark family secrets, while hopelessly navigating what it means to be in love while asexual. Easy, right?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was so much fun! I was drawn into the story immediately and immediately sympathetic to the main character. He was sarcastic, self-deprecating, funny, and a very believable teenager — some of my favorite things in a protagonist. He made a lot of very realistic, very bad decisions, especially early on when he felt like he was alone and his world was falling apart. Sometimes he even knew they were bad decisions and he still made them. He was a very realistic teenager, in other words.

I LOVE that the entire crew he pulls together for his heist are ace. It’s such a fun detail, and so relatable – not having friends in your immediate surroundings but connecting with people all over the country on fanfiction forums and then forming a chat support group for ace people? Definitely felt familiar, which drew me in even more. I almost felt like I was a member of the group and in on their shenanigans.

The heist itself sometimes took a backseat to the family and friend group drama, but I’m ok with that. There was still plenty of heist action there, but I was there for the character interactions anyway as I generally prefer character driven to plot driven stories. I love love loved the characters. They were all such individuals, with unique characteristics and mannerisms that didn’t feel forced at all. They felt like real people you might find anywhere. Well, they felt like real teenagers that you might meet at the outskirts of the school social scene, which is where I’ve always been the most comfortable. In short – I wanted to be their friend too. They were very obviously my people.

I like how the ‘being ace’ aspect was handled, as well as the tentative love story. It was sweet and realistic and believable… and familiar. Aside from the whole heist thing, it could have been me and my friends in high school and college.

That sense of familiarity, of belonging, made me love this book 1000x more than I would have based solely on the plot. Obviously not everyone is going to feel this sentimental about the book and characters, but I think a lot of people will really see themselves here and feel seen.

Las Vegas was an excellent choice of setting because the glitter and glamour made an excellent contrast to the seriousness of the beginning and then an excellent background and distraction during the plotting and executing of the heist itself. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but after reading this I feel like I was there. The descriptions didn’t ever try to take over the story like in some books, but I still felt like everything was very grounded in a specific place and could even almost see it playing out in my head. in fact I did see it that way – I have very specific visual memories of events in the book. It was like watching a movie. Ocean’s 11, but with teenagers.

The audiobook was narrated flawlessly and I love the narrator and the choices he made for the different voices and the way he told the story. Just perfect all around. I bumped the speed up to 2x because he spoke a little slowly for my taste – many people do – and it was still perfectly clear and easy to understand and all the emotion came through easily.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Peachtree Teen, and Recorded Books for providing an e-arc and audio arc for review.

ARC Review: ABC Pride by Louie Stowell and Elly Barnes

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Synopsis:

A is for Acceptance! B is for Belonging! C is for Celebrate!

ABC Pride introduces little readers to the alphabet through the colourful world of Pride. Children can discover letters and words while also learning more about the LGBTQIA+ community and how to be inclusive.

Every letter of the alphabet is paired with fun, bold illustrations to support language learning, and a handy list of discussion points at the end gives adults the tools to spark further conversations and discussion.

ABC Pride offers a simple yet powerful way to explain gender, identity, ability to children, while supporting diverse family units. Ideal for children to explore together with a caregiver, or in the classroom.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book and can’t wait to read it with my second grader. Yes, he’s maybe a tad older than the target audience but I think he’ll still get a lot out of it and the amount of text is perfect for him to practice reading aloud.

The illustrations are cute and draw you in, and they’re very diverse and inclusive! I was impressed with the way the illustrations feature a lot of racial diversity and a wide range of disabilities along with the LGBT+ diversity. Kudos to the illustrator because I don’t think I’ve seen a more inclusive, diverse children’s book.

I love the words that were chosen and the simple, easy-to-understand way they were each explained. For something that seems simple on the surface, there’s a lot of thought that went into this book. I can already tell it will spark some reflection and thought in my kiddo.

*Thanks to NetGalley and DK Children for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Proper Scoundrels by Allie Therin

57831165. sy475

Publishing Date: December 28, 2021

Synopsis:

Don’t miss this standalone spin-off in Allie Therin’s acclaimed Magic in Manhattan universe!

Their scandalous pasts have left them wounded and unworthy—and hopelessly perfect together.


London, 1925

Sebastian de Leon is adjusting to life after three years spent enthralled by blood magic. The atrocities he committed under its control still weigh heavily on his conscience, but when he’s asked to investigate a series of mysterious murders, it feels like an opportunity to make amends. Until he realizes the killer’s next likely target is a man who witnessed Sebastian at his worst—the Viscount Fine.

Lord Fine—known as Wesley to his friends, if he had any—is haunted by ghosts of his own after serving as a British army captain during the Great War. Jaded and untrusting, he’s tempted to turn Sebastian in, but there’s something undeniably captivating about the reformed paranormal, and after Sebastian risks his own life to save Wesley’s, they find common ground.

Seeking sanctuary together at Wesley’s country estate in Yorkshire, the unlikely pair begins to unravel a mystery steeped in legend and folklore, the close quarters emboldening them to see past the other’s trauma to the person worth loving beneath. But with growing targets on their backs, they’ll have to move quickly if they want to catch a killer—and discover whether two wounded souls can help each other heal.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was a little apprehensive about this at first because I *loved * the trilogy this spins off from, but I needn’t have worried. Now that I’ve finished it, I love this one too. Possibly even more, as Wesley was a delightfully cynical curmudgeon gone soft for Sebastian alone and I adore that trope.

This was satisfactory as a standalone, though it would also have been lovely if it had been expanded a bit. I hope we get more from this world in the future. And more Wesley because he’s possibly more fun than even Rory.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect, but the best part was Wesley the cynical curmudgeon with a deeply buried heart of gold, and Sebastian the “dangerous marshmallow” as they slowly became closer and let one another see what they let no one else see. (They were terribly entertaining together from practically the moment they met. I highlighted SO many passages.)

Also, paranormal art!

This is a book (along with the series it spins off of) that I will most definitely be reading again because it thoroughly stole my heart. Historical paranormal MM is apparently my thing XD.

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

Favorite Quotes

…she claimed the ridiculous creature’s affections eased her rheumatoid pains. What a load of sentimental rot. Everyone was miserable; it was no excuse to dote on a yappy speck of fluff.

“Are you all right, Lord Fine?”
Wesley had some bruises, some scrapes, and blisters on his arms. But he was alive, and free, and most importantly, not on fucking fire anymore, so what came out was, “Yes.”

“Are you serious right now?” said Lord Fine incredulously. “You’re handcuffed to my bed at gunpoint and you’re more upset that the English hunt foxes?”

God, everyone was always so unflatteringly surprised that he was capable of sympathy. He’d be insulted, if he wasn’t, well, himself.

A paranormal earl, yes, that was exactly what Wesley wanted to learn existed.

There were not enough cups of tea in the world to deal with this morning.

Was–was Wesley being flirted with?
Wesley might have just been flirted with.

“Some people don’t like my accent, or my Spanish.”

“Some people don’t like opera. The world is full of classless philistines.”

Sebastian blinked.

“Xenophobia is a waste of time,” Lord Fine went on, like he hadn’t just paid Sebastian something of a compliment. “Everyone is a foreigner somewhere. Foreigners are just people and all people are universally terrible, so what’s the point of disliking foreigners in particular?”

“I said, I think you’re the witch, because when I’m with you, I remember how to be free.”

Sebastian blinked. “Is everything okay?”

No, it isn’t. You’ve just uttered the most romantic words anyone has ever said to me, in a Yorkshire pub over chips.

Oh, Christ. Wesley was not equipped to experience feelings, this was completely unacceptable.

And he did, despite Wesley’s pessimism–maybe with magic, obviously that was going to be Wesley’s explanation for everything now…

But I will admit there is one tiny place in this godforsaken world that isn’t cold and miserable, and that’s the corner you light up.”

“If you stay with me, there might be a lot of magic.”

“I’ll be thoroughly enchanted either way,” said Wesley, and went back in for another kiss.

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

ARC Review: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was an utter delight. I read it from start to finish in one sitting and don’t regret it in the slightest. I’ve been reading a lot of (very good) epic fantasy lately, and this was such a refreshing break from the heavy seriousness of it all. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but is also very sweet (and funny).

Kit is grumpy and charming, Percy and his valet remind me rather a lot of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, though Percy is rather cleverer than Wooster. I find myself very curious what mischief Marian was getting up to throughout it all, and hope her book will follow soon.

I also have to hand it to Cat Sebastian for her rendition of Kit’s injury that causes him chronic pain. It was thoughtful and integrated into the story and felt real and honest.

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

ARC Review: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

The Chosen and the Beautiful

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is ravishing and seductive and so compelling you can’t look away, no matter how terrible everyone is. Telling Gatsby’s story through Jordan Baker – making it Jordan’s story, as queer Vietnamese adoptee – was a stroke of utter brilliance. Because you feel for her, no matter how terrible she is at first.

The fantasy element was relatively minor but woven like a thread from beginning to end. You could almost forget it was there, it felt so consistent within the world of 1920s New York. You know it’s going to end badly from the beginning – all the signs are there, and of course you know if you’ve read Gatsby before – but the way everything plays out is heartbreaking. Specifically, it’s Jordan’s heart that breaks, for she’s the only one of all of them with a heart that can break.

The audiobook was brilliantly narrated and I was hooked from beginning to end. Natalie Naudus’ smoky voice conveyed Jordan – and everyone else – perfectly believably.

Now I need a sequel so Jordan can have her happy ending.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing an audio arc for review.

ARC Review: The Rake Mistake by Erica Ridley

The Rake Mistake (The Wild Wynchesters #1.5; Heist Club #1)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was delightful! Not only were the Wynchesters involved – especially Great Aunt Wynchester – but also Philippa’s book club (Heist Club!). I can’t wait for more!

*Thanks to Erica Ridley for the e-arc to review.