Audio ARC Review: What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix by Tasha Suri

Just look at this *gorgeous* cover!

Publication Date: July 5, 2022

Synopsis:

What Souls Are Made Of, British Fantasy Award-winning author Tasha Suri’s masterful new take on Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, will leave readers breathless.

As the abandoned son of a Lascar—a sailor from India—Heathcliff has spent most of his young life maligned as an “outsider.” Now he’s been flung into an alien life in the Yorkshire moors, where he clings to his birth father’s language even though it makes the children of the house call him an animal, and the maids claim he speaks gibberish.

Catherine is the younger child of the estate’s owner, a daughter with light skin and brown curls and a mother that nobody talks about. Her father is grooming her for a place in proper society, and that’s all that matters. Catherine knows she must mold herself into someone pretty and good and marriageable, even though it might destroy her spirit.

As they occasionally flee into the moors to escape judgment and share the half-remembered language of their unknown kin, Catherine and Heathcliff come to find solace in each other. Deep down in their souls, they can feel they are the same.

But when Catherine’s father dies and the household’s treatment of Heathcliff only grows more cruel, their relationship becomes strained and threatens to unravel. For how can they ever be together, when loving each other—and indeed, loving themselves—is as good as throwing themselves into poverty and death?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My favorite of the Remixed Classics series thus far!

I wasn’t a fan of Wuthering Heights when I read it some years ago. There was too much tragedy, and the characters were all awful people. But I still jumped at the chance to read this because Tasha Suri is a fantastic writer, the synopsis is intriguing, the cover is stunning, and I have absolutely loved every installment of the Remixed Classics series thus far.

And it absolutely lived up to and exceeded every one of my hopes and expectations. I loved the split narration between Cathy and Heathcliffe. I loved their distinct voices and the way the narrators performed their chapters. I loved how, though they were distinct, their childhood belief that they shared one soul felt true. I especially loved how this story deviated from the original.

The character growth of both Cathy and Heathcliffe is immense. They do not start the book as ‘likeable’ people, either of them, but I was rooting for each of them to find themself from the beginning, and by the end I loved them.

The ending is a satisfying conclusion and very obviously a new beginning and I would happily read more books exploring where Cathy and Heathcliffe go and how they choose to pay the debts Cathy’s father owed as they set their ghosts to rest.

Speaking of ghosts, I loved the fantastical elements to the story. They were at once jarring and a natural extension of the plot. They felt right and true.

The discussion of the East India Company’s atrocities in India, colonialism in general, the way rich white men viewed all non-white foreigners, expecting them to be grateful to serve them, was sickening. The revelations about Cathy’s father were blows to Cathy and to the reader.

This story was hard-hitting and the language was gorgeous and kept the haunting gothic atmosphere of the original. I was riveted and couldn’t stop listening. I loved that I never knew what was going to happen. There were points where one of the characters would face a choice, and I could see where one choice would lead – to something like the plot of the original Wuthering Heights – and I would desperately hope they would choose the other path, even though it wasn’t clear what lay at the end of it.

I loved the element of found family that Heathcliffe stumbles into — I’m a sucker for a found family plot — and I really wish there could be a sequel where Cathy gets to meet them. I would love to see what she would make of Heathcliffe’s life and choices in Liverpool. At the same time I love where Tasha Suri chose to end the story. It felt… right.

This is my favorite of the Remixed Classics series thus far. Highly recommend.

I also highly recommend the audiobook because it is absolutely gorgeous and the narrators really bring the story to life. It is emotional and haunting and gothic and perfectly matches that gorgeous cover.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Feiwel & Friends, and Macmillan Audio for providing an audio arc for review.

ARC & Audiobook Review: A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Synopsis:

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

In A Far Wilder Magic, Allison Saft has written an achingly tender love story set against a deadly hunt in an atmospheric, rich fantasy world that will sweep you away.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I can see why one of the comp titles for this book is the Scorpio Races. This has a similar sense of place and magic, and a slowburn love story (though it’s a bit more physical). It slowly pulled me in until I was thoroughly hooked.

The writing is gorgeous and I highlighted several quotes. I also was able to listen to an advance copy of the audiobook and the performance was really excellent. The narrator was able to give each character a unique and recognizable (and believable) voice, and really brought the text to life.

Margaret, the main character, is cold and prickly and closed-off, trapped alone in her silent manor and barely alive. Wes burns with ambition, is impulsive, and has a large, loud family. It seems like they would never get along — and at first they don’t — but their gradual coming together is believable and romantic.

This book addresses religious prejudice well, making Margaret and Wes outsiders because of their family’s religion. They are bullied and tormented but they bear it and overcome it with empathy and grace.

The pace is glacial at first, and while it never gets anything like fast, it does gradually increase. I recommend giving it longer than normal to hook you because once it draws you in it really is a magical read.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and Macmillan Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc of this book.

Favorite Quotes:

“A little tragedy is good for the constitution.”

Beneath his fear, there’s a glimmer of relieved acceptance. Mauling, he thinks, is a preferable death to shame.

She scours every surface until it gleams, until her mind begins to disconnect from reality, until her pain feels distant.

She has built herself a mother out of those precious memories and kept herself alive on them. But she can’t subsist on crumbs anymore.

She could lose herself in this. The heat of his body against hers; the heady, ridiculous scent of his aftershave and the wild bright salt of the sea; the way he holds her as though she’s something precious.

Right now, she strikes him as entirely otherworldly. A siren — or one of the aos si liable to drag him to a watery grave. Fey magic as ancient and wild as the hala, wearing a girl’s skin.

She is so beautiful.

She feels as though she’s been threaded through with an electrical wire, jittery and wild with dread.

I love him. It doesn’t surprise her to finally admit it to herself. It feels nothing like a revelation, nothing like falling — only like the punchline of some cruel, predictable joke. She has only given the universe more ammunition to wound her.

There is something dark within him that enjoys this heady rush of power. It’s intoxicating to at last hold all the cards — to cradle a life in his hands. The divinity of God lives within each of them, but only an alchemist can harness that spark. Jaime’s is just a pale insignificant glimmer against his.

She’s lived her whole life braced for another blow, but no amount of preparation or precaution has stopped them from landing.

This is the beast half of the hunters here today would’ve killed them for. The last demiurge: the last of the Katharists’ false gods, the last of the Sumic god’s children, the last of the Yu’adir god’s gifts.

The wind quivers, as tremulous as a long-held breath. And there is less magic in the world.

ARC & Audio Review: Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe

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Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Synopsis:

The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all…

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a really interesting reading experience. I was ready to give up on it really fast because it seemed to be setting up a very very typical YA love triangle with a villain-who’s-actually-good and a bad-boy-who’s-really-bad. I kept reading though, because I felt for Mae, who has spent her whole life on an island sort of on the outside of this very rich family. And it’s very well-written, which helped.

And then… everything flipped. And flipped again. I spent most of the book trying to figure out who is actually the good guy. My thoughts were like “Is he the good guy? Is he the good guy? Is there a good guy? You know what, these are all terrible people, why does Mae want anything to do with them? Oh ho, now Mae is a terrible people, what? Is… is there anyone on this island with even the tiniest redeeming quality?”

I couldn’t look away from the scheming and the backstabbing and the betrayals and the lies. It was like the Great Gatsby in that way. They’re all rich and terrible but you can’t look away.

And even after that, after all the darkness and lies, a whole new level of darkness and lies is reached. It was impressive, actually, that my opinion of these people could sink any lower. There is a tiny hint of redemption for some of them at the end, which is good because otherwise I would have come away with a very bitter taste in my mouth and might not have liked this book very much at all. As it is, yeah. You know, I really did enjoy it.

Also. That ending! That is a gutsy place to end a book, especially one that seems to be a standalone. And it’s also absolutely the right choice, because I’ve thought about it way more than I would have if the scene had gone on another few seconds and I think I like it more than I would have otherwise.

I have not read the Tempest, which I know this is a re-imagining of, but I don’t think that really impacted my enjoyment of this story. It definitely has Great Gatsby vibes, but again, I don’t think you need to be familiar with that story to read it. Just don’t write it off early on, because it does a great job of twisting that love triangle trope.

The audiobook performance was excellent. The narrator did a great job giving all the characters believable voices and acting out the story. I read a portion of the story and listened to a portion of it and I definitely enjoyed the listening experience more because it was so well done. It was like a movie playing out in my mind, seamless and totally immersive. I would definitely recommend getting the audio for the best reading experience.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and MacMillan Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

We arrived at lunch with the bones of a plan. Actually, the bones of three different plans, which, combined, were not quite enough for a full skeleton.

I wished I could make him feel something other than rage. I wanted to make him smile.

Audiobook ARC Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor, #1)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I listened to the audiobook of this, and the narrator did an amazing job; he just glides smoothly through all the ridiculously long and difficult names and I would not manage to be that smooth.

I was occasionally confused about which minor character was which (partly because I listened to it over several weeks because I had little time to devote to it each day), but overall I found the story compelling and fascinating.

I love how Addison thrusts us into the unknown world of the Imperial Court with a language and set of societal rules that are complicated and unfamiliar and just leaves us to figure it out — much as she dumps Maia into the same situation. I felt an intense kinship with Maia because of that, and because of his background and temperament, and it was immensely satisfying to watch him coming into his own as emperor and slowly making friends and finding his place.

All of the conflict is Maia’s internal struggle and his determination to be a better person and emperor than his father was – which of course pits him against those members of court who are still loyal to his father. There was no great outside conflict as one generally expects in a fantasy novel, and I love it for that, and for the way the entire novel is infused with Maia’s hope and determination to be good.

This second re-listen I’ve found I love it just as much, and am just as awed by the narrator’s smoothness and ability to wrangle complex names. I see more of Maia’s fight to keep himself from acts of pettiness against his cousin Setharis (who quite frankly deserves all of Maia’s pettiness and more after what he put Maia through over the course of his childhood) because he is so determined to be good. That goodness is Maia’s underlying character trait and despite what people in the court keep telling him, it serves him well.

*Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Audio for providing an audiobook arc to review.

ARC Review: A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water, #2)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was such an interesting novel. For the first half, maybe, I couldn’t stand the main character, Naema. She was such a rich, entitled, privileged b*tch. Her previous interactions with Effie and Tavia certainly didn’t help. But… over the course of the novel she slowly expanded her worldview and started to change. Very slowly, and very reluctantly, but she soon became someone I could cheer on and be fully invested in. Because underneath all the awfulness, she cares. Deeply. And not, as it first appears, just for herself.

I questioned Bethany Morrow’s judgement in making Naema the protagonist of this follow-up novel, but I have to admit it was a genius move. I actually ended up liking this novel more than the first one. Its exploration of race and privilege and how they intersect was thorough, brutal, and enjoyable. I will definitely be reading her future novels.

The audiobook was excellent, and the narrator captured Naema’s voice perfectly from beginning to end. The other character voices were also excellent, and it was a joy to listen to.

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

ARC Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I absolutely ADORED this book. Yes, the sapphic romance was wonderful, but also the characters! They’re all so well-rounded and interesting and exactly the sort of people you meet and live with in college. It reminded me of my college days. I wasn’t in New York, but it was all so, so familiar. I love them all and I didn’t want the story to end. I didn’t think Casey McQuiston could top their previous book but I think I might even love this one more.

It was so unapologetically queer, and seeing Jane react to the differences in 1977 New York and 2020 New York in how queer people could be and were reacted to – it was beautiful and heartbreaking.

I loved the mystery of Jane and her past and how all of it tied into August’s past. Just. So well-crafted.

I had the opportunity to listen to an advance copy of the audiobook and it was so well done. The narrator’s voice was perfect for the story, and she brought so much emotion to the characters and just brought it to life. I wanted to live inside the audiobook.

If you, like me, enjoy the found family trope then I highly recommend this book.

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

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