Category Archives: book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: THE LOST METAL BY BRANDON SANDERSON

the book cover for The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson

  • STAR RATING:  4ish stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 507 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 15, 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Tor Books
    WHAT SERIES? The Mistborn Saga
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Alloy of Law
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4 in this era, 3 in the era before
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, body horror, kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Mistborn era 1 by Brandon Sanderson, The Old Kingdom Series by Garth Nix

SYNOPSIS

For years, frontier lawman turned big-city senator Waxillium Ladrian has hunted the shadowy organization the Set-with his late uncle and his sister among their leaders – since they started kidnapping people with the power of Allomancy in their bloodlines. When Detective Marasi Colms, and her partner, Wayne, find stockpiled weapons bound for the Outer City of Bilming, this opens a new lead. Conflict between Elendel and the Outer Cities only favors the Set, and their tendrils now reach to the Elendel Senate – whose corruption Wax and Steris have sought to expose-and Bilming is even more entangled. After Wax discovers a new type of explosive that can unleash unprecedented destruction, and realizes that the Set must already have it, an immortal kandra serving Scadrial’s god, Harmony, reveals that Bilming has fallen under the influence of another god: Trell, worshipped by the Set. And Trell isn’t the only factor at play from the larger Cosmere-Marasi is recruited by offworlders with strange abilities who claim their goal is to protect Scadrial…at any cost. Wax must choose whether to set aside his rocky relationship with God and once again become the Sword that Harmony has groomed him to be. If no one steps forward to be the hero Scadrial needs, the planet and its millions of people will come to a sudden and calamitous ruin.

If you’ve been following me for a while on here, then you know that I’m quite a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work. It’s not like I hide my opinion on his incredible talent, or his amazingly fascinating worlds or magic systems. Brandon Sanderson is a true genius at fantasy writing. There’s no doubt about it. I usually rave and rave about his latest books after I’m done reading them, but this time I find that I can’t do that.

The Lost Metal was good. It really was. A good ending to Mistborn, Era 2. So why do I feel just a little let down? I won’t spoil anything, I promise, but there’s a few things that just didn’t quite live up to my standards of Sanderson’s work. Which may be too high, honestly. I expect a lot from him, and maybe I should tone it down. ANYWAY.

I will admit that I did not reread the previous three novels before diving into this one. It’s possible that would have increased my enjoyment of this one. There’s a lot going on in this world, and it’s hard to keep things straight. ESPECIALLY when Sanderson introduces a lot of other cosmere-related characters in this book. (Aren’t sure what the cosmere is? A lot of Sanderson’s works take place in the same universe, and many of the characters are planet or world hoppers, meaning they can appear in more than one series. Confusing? You bet. But it’s also super cool to see a familiar face in a new series.) Sanderson took the cosmere up a notch in this book, and like I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m not sure it worked for me this time.

So how come? Well, when you have to read all the other cosmere-related books (probably 10+ books at this point) to understand something, it can be a bit of a drag. AND THAT’S COMING FROM SOMEONE WHO HAS READ ALL THE OTHER COSMERE BOOKS. It’s a lot to be familiar with and remember, especially when you’re a heavy reader like me. So basically, I guess what I’m saying is this. The book was decent, it just had too many…details? I guess? That sounds ridiculous, and I’m aware of it.

ANYWAY, I love Wax, and I love, love, love Wayne. I’m so glad he was featured prominently in this one. Marasai is still fascinating, but I was THRILLED to see that Steris’s talents were finally put to use on a grand scale in this one. She deserved the spotlight and the recognition. Sanderson’s female characters never really disappoint — they’re all vastly different from each other, and I love that they’re not reduced down to love interests or wallflowers. I’ll definitely be picking up the next Mistborn era when it comes out, but with some hesitancy, I guess.

Did this review make any sense whatsoever? Who knows.

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ARC REVIEW: GEORGIE, ALL ALONG BY KATE CLAYBORN

the book cover for Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
  • STAR RATING:  5 ENORMOUS stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 320 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: January 31st 2023 
  • PUBLISHER: Kensington Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Child abuse, Emotional abuse, Drug use
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  In a Jam by Kate Canterbary

Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

In this heartfelt tale of one woman’s quest to reinvent herself, the acclaimed author of Love Lettering and Love at First delivers a poignant, witty reflection on how the hopes, dreams, and stories from our past shape our future . . .

Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.

Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away . . .

Georgie, All Along is a profoundly lovely story about self-discovery and figuring yourself out. Yes, it’s a romance book, but I found that wasn’t the most important part of it for me. Georgie is lost — she’s been let go from her important assistant job out in Hollywood, and has found herself slinking back to her home town. She’s supposed to be staying her parent’s house while they’re out vacationing, but the first night she’s there a man walks right into the house while she’s dancing in her robe and underwear. That night will forever change her life — in the best way possible.

I love, love, loved this book. Every character in it felt like someone I know in real life. They all were dynamic, and understandable and dang if they didn’t just breathe right off the page. Georgie reminded me so much of myself I wanted to scream. She’s such a lovely, bright, bubbly person but all she does is help everyone else. Once she realizes this, she’s even more lost than she already was — who is she when she’s just taking care of herself? Who is she when she has no one to help? Who is she when she looks forward and stops thinking about right now? Georgie finds the answers to all of these, and gah. I want to be her best friend, but that role is already taken by Bel, another fantastic character.

But even more than I loved Georgie, I loved Levi. What a strong person. What a horrible past. What god-awful parents. I loved that Clayborn gave him such a thorough backstory, but what was best was that she sort of peppered it in. You learn in bits and pieces and then when it all finally comes out you want to take Levi and hold him tight. I love that he took his hurt and used it it improve himself, and make a life that he wanted. I loved that he was silly with Georgie, but generally a quiet man. He took care of her without smothering her — Levi let Georgie be Georgie. He loved her — all of her, not just the palatable bits. Georgie and Levi fit together like puzzle pieces.

It’s obvious I’m just gushing now, but I really adored this book. This one is one I’ll come back to again and again, just hoping for more Georgie and Levi. Go pick this one up the second it comes out, okay?

GEORGIE, ALL ALONG comes out JANUARY 31, 2023.

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ARC REVIEW: THE FOXGLOVE KING BY HANNAH WHITTEN

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 400 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: March 7th 2023 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    WHAT SERIES? The Nightshade Kingdom
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Foxglove King
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, body horror, kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

In this lush, romantic new epic fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Hannah Whitten, a young woman’s secret power to raise the dead plunges her into the dangerous and glamorous world of the Sainted King’s royal court.

When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.

Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die.

Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.

But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.

I knew upon reading the synopsis of this book that it would be right up my alley. I knew it. And reader — I was right. I had been desperately waiting for my ARC copy to arrive in my email ever since Orbit had announced this book was coming. And I know I really should have waited until closer to The Foxglove King‘s publishing date to read it, but uh, I could not wait any longer.

Despite my ongoing reading slump, I found myself diving into The Foxglove King. It is so good. It reads like the best YA adventure novel out there — and I do not mean that as a dig in any way whatsoever. I know people like to rag on YA novels, but they are a lot of fun most of the time. The Foxglove King is NOT a YA novel, but it definitely has the same feeling. There’s a lot at stake here in the plot, and the three main characters are all pretty high up on the so-called totem pole, if you will.

We have Lore, who is something of a necromancer. She’s got a mysterious past that we don’t see very much of in this book, but I fully expect to see more of in the incoming books. I really liked Lore. She never took anything for granted, and was rather fully on her own side. But she also had real feelings, and dang do you feel sorry for her the more you read.

Next, we have Gabe, who is a duke/monk in a death…related…cult? It’s hard to explain without spoiling anything. I promise it makes total sense in the book. He’s got his own reasons behind everything that he does or allows to happen, and while I wanted to like him, and you really really do want to like him, he is so manipulated that you really aren’t surprised by certain things that occur.

Lastly, we have Bastian, the Sun Prince. I love, love, love Bastian. I’m a sucker for a pretends-not-to-care, parties-all-the-time, but-actually-cares-a-lot character. That’s Bastian to a T. I cannot wait to see more of him. His dad is the King (obviously) and wow, do you hate his dad as soon as you meet him.

And yes, there is a bit of a love-triangle situation going on between the three leads. I know who I’m rooting for, but we’ll see where it goes. The romance is NOT a huge part of the book, though, for those of you that are worried about it. It is very much a minor subplot. Lore is not at all worried about her heart when her death magic seems to be strengthening. She has her priorities straight, I promise.

I loved the magic that Whitten included. I love the little hints of the gods that we see — this was actually one of my most favorite parts of the book. The gods are dead, but not, and they seem to be influencing things to go a certain way. It is so vastly interesting, and mysterious without being infuriating that I am now waiting with bated breath for the next entry into this series.

THE FOXGLOVE KING comes out MARCH 7, 2023.

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BOOK REVIEW: THE WORST GUY BY KATE CANTERBARY

  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 340 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED:   December 28th 2021 
  • PUBLISHER:  Vesper Press
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Eating disorder, Sexual content, Emotional abuse

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

SYNOPSIS

Eight weeks of forced proximity is a long time to hate someone you’re trying not to love.

Sebastian Stremmel doesn’t need another headache. He has enough of his own without Sara Shapiro, the noisy new reconstructive surgeon, stomping all around his surgical wing with her chippy, chirpy cheerfulness.

But Sebastian doesn’t usually get what he wants.

No one gets under his skin like Sara – so much so a heated “debate” and an exam room left in shambles later, they land themselves in eight weeks of hospital-mandated conflict resolution counseling. Now they’re forced to fight fair…which quickly leads them to playing dirty when no one’s looking. 

They know it’s a mistake.

They promise themselves it will never happen again.

They swear they got it out of their systems.

They didn’t.

I really enjoyed this, but it was a rough go at the start. That might be because I’m in the midst of one of the worst reading slumps of my entire life, or it might be that I’m not really into hate-relationships all that much. Or, you know, it could be a combination of the two, I suppose. BUT THAT’S NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, as I really did end up enjoying The Worst Guy. It’s my second Canterbary novel, and so far her record is 2/1. I loved, loved, loved In a Jam, but I DNFed The Belle and the Beard.

ANYWAY — Sebastian Stremmel is not a very nice guy, and well, Sara Shapiro isn’t all that nice, either. Though I did like her a helluva lot more than I liked Sebastian at the start. He’s grumpy, grouchy, and just plain mean sometimes. Put them together and it was like pouring gasoline on a fire. Things just sort of imploded. They picked on each other, teased each other, and they just plain shouted at each other. But when the clothes came off, damn they were hot together.

I loved that there were reasons behind who they were. I loved that Canterbary gave Sara and Sebastian horrible backstories. It made sense. Everything felt right — there was no part of this where I questioned whether it was realistic. It felt real, the way these two butted heads, but then sort of clicked together like magnets. This was great.

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BOOK REVIEW: THE BONE HOUSES BY EMILY LLOYD-JONES

the book cover for The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 352 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED:  September 24th 2019 
  • PUBLISHER:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, grief, death of parent, animal death

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

SYNOPSIS

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves. 

You all know how much I loved The Drowned Woods when I read it earlier this year. Pretty much immediately went and bought Emily Lloyd-Jones’s previous novel, The Bone Houses, as soon as I was done. I kept putting off reading it, though, because it seemed like the perfect book to read for Halloween.

I was right.

But dang, does this book pack quite the punch.

The Bone Houses is about medieval zombies. A bone house is a dead person that is still up and walking around. They can’t talk, or eat, or do anything like an alive person other than…wander around and try to hurt people. (Spoiler — not all the bone houses want to hurt you!) Ryn — our main character — lives in a tiny village seemingly in the middle of no where, surrounded by a magical forest. The bone houses generally stick to the forest, until one day…they don’t. Surprise!

The rest of the book is trying to figure out what magic causes the bone houses, why they’re suddenly coming out of the forest, and attacking the village. Ryn and her companion, Ellis, venture out on a quest to find some answers. Ryn is a no-nonsense young woman, and I loved her ability to do just whatever she needed to so things got done. Instead of being afraid or anxious, she just did things. No fuss. Ellis is a little wishy-washy at first, but his backstory is really profoundly well done. And I can’t NOT mention bone goat. What an amazing animal companion. Loyal even unto death.

The Bone Houses is a book about death, mourning, and how love does not fade when someone passes. This book made me cry more than once, but in a very healing way. It also made me hug my son so, so tight. I loved this absolutely beautifully written book.

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BOOK REVIEW: I’M GLAD MY MOM DIED BY JENNETTE MCCURDY

  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 320 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 9th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER:  Simon & Schuster
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Eating disorder, Child abuse, Emotional abuse, alcoholism

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

SYNOPSIS

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.

I’m going to be real with you on this one — I have no idea how to format my thoughts on this one. How do you review such a heartbreaking memoir? The guts it took to write this book, to lay it all out there — the good, the bad, and the just plain awful — I just…I am in awe of Jennette McCurdy. Let me tell you, though, this is not an easy book to read, emotionally. If you have any history of disordered eating at all, you will struggle with this one. But McCurdy is very clearly far down her path of recovery by the end of it, and my heart soars for her.

So why did I pick this one up? Well, it’s been lauded every since it was released a few months ago, and I was a fan of iCarly growing up. Sam was usually my favorite character — sometimes tied with Spencer — but watching the show you could never tell how absolutely miserable McCurdy must have been. She genuinely looked like she was having a good time. I can’t imagine going through abuse her mother put her through just to get a shot of second-hand fame. It’s horrifying — especially when McCurdy describes her mother basically handing her an eating disorder. Honestly, my stomach twisted every time her mother was mentioned. What an awful woman.

But in I’m Glad My Mom Died, McCurdy lays her life story down, not quietly, not gently, not apologetically. She just tells it like it was, period. I can’t imagine reading a more flowery version of this. McCurdy’s life doesn’t need embellishment. I hope writing this book was a form of catharsis for her. I hope she is now happy, that she is living a life that she wants to lead, without anyone else telling her what to do. She deserves it.

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ARC REVIEW: A RESTLESS TRUTH BY FREYA MARSKE

the book cover for A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 400 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 1st 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Tordotcom Publishing
    WHAT SERIES? The Last Binding Series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? A Marvellous Light
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, death, torture, Misogyny, racism
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

Thank you to Netgalley and Tordotcom Publishing for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Magic! Murder! Shipboard romance! The second entry in Freya Marske’s beloved The Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light

The most interesting things in Maud Blyth’s life have happened to her brother Robin, but she’s ready to join any cause, especially if it involves magical secrets that may threaten the whole of the British Isles. Bound for New York on the R.M.S. Lyric, she’s ready for an adventure.

What she actually finds is a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire. Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them.

One of my absolute favorite books I read last year was the first book in The Last Binding series — A Marvellous Light. It took everything that I adore — historical romance, mysteries, meaningful gay relationships, magic, and steamy sex scenes — and pushed it all together in an absolutely fantastic mashup. When A Restless Truth showed up on Netgalley, I daren’t hope that I would be given access to an ARC. I loved A Marvellous Light too much, obviously, to be impartial to the sequel. Well, I was wrong — Tordotcom rather lovingly bestowed me access to an e-arc of one of my most anticipated books of the year. I think I squealed out loud when I got the approval email, actually.

So, drumroll — did A Restless Truth stand up to A Marvellous Light in my eyes?

Yes, and a tiny bit of no.

Yes…mostly, I suppose?

The entire book takes place on a massive ship heading across the Atlantic back to England. It’s possible that this hampered the book in my eyes — perhaps I missed the mad dash hurry travel scenes to get some other neatly magical location? Or was it the characters themselves that just didn’t stand up to Robin and Edwin? (This is what I’m leaning towards.) I love them both so much, that it would be very hard for anyone else to match them, honestly. While I did like Maud, and Violet, they just weren’t Robin and Edwin. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It might also be the ending of the book that just didn’t shine quite as much as A Marvellous Light‘s. (I won’t spoil anything but repeating something happening to the characters three times is a bit much, in my eyes.) Whatever the reason may be — I’m still not entirely sure — I still did enjoy A Restless Truth very much.

More about the characters, now. Violet Debenham is an absolute marvel of a character — she is a magnificent scandal and she does not care who notices. She spends the majority of the book pretending to be behind a version of herself that she’s created in order to hide who she really is. She’s a lot of fun, but she does ring false for a lot of the book — on purpose. Maud Blythe is Robin’s sister who is determined with all her might to be a good person, in spite of her parents being absolutely awful people. Lord Hawthorne, I’m hoping will be one of the leads in the next book. He’s so very stoic, noble, and straight-backed I really want to see someone just totally tear him apart emotionally.

The mystery at the center of the plot was fantastic, though I do wish there had been a little more foreshadowing as to who was actually involved in the theft and murder. It feels like the twist comes out of absolutely nowhere, unfortunately.

Overall, I did enjoy A Restless Truth, just not quite as much as I loved A Marvellous Light.

A RESTLESS TRUTH comes out NOVEMBER 1, 2022.

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BOOK REVIEW: IN A JAM BY KATE CANTERBARY

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 474 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 18, 2022
  • PUBLISHER:  Vesper Press
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, abandonment, fatphobia

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey for grumpy/sunshine

SYNOPSIS

When Shay Zucconi’s step-grandmother died, she left Shay a tulip farm—under two conditions.

First, Shay has to move home to the small town of Friendship, Rhode Island. Second—and most problematic since her fiancé just called off the wedding—Shay must be married within one year.

Marriage is the last thing in the world Shay wants but she’ll do anything to save the only real home she’s ever known.

Noah Barden loved Shay Zucconi back in high school. Not that he ever told her. He was too shy, too awkward, too painfully uncool to ask out the beautiful, popular girl.

A lifetime later, Noah is a single dad to his niece and has his hands full running the family business. That old crush is the farthest thing from his mind.

Until Shay returns to their hometown.

Okay, so I picked In A Jam up after a few different bloggers and authors on Twitter wouldn’t stop praising it. I’m not a huge contemporary romance fan — I prefer historicals — but this one really pushed a lot of my buttons in a great way. Like, I didn’t want to do anything but sit down under a comfy blanket and read this book in one sitting. Unfortunately, life wouldn’t let me do that, but I still devoured this one.

Shay is a very competent kindergarten teacher. She’s friendly, loves to talk to kids, and more importantly, knows how to talk to kids. She wears goofy earrings, isn’t thin as a stick, and is, unfortunately, second guessing every decision she’s ever made. With good reason though — she was basically left at the altar by her no-good ex. I felt so, so bad for her, but what a wonderful group of friends she has that pick her right up and get her moving again. I really, really loved her character.

Noah is a no-nonsense lawyer-turned-farmer, and I love, love, love him. He’s gruff, grumpy, but oh my god does he fall HARD for Shay pretty much instantaneously. I am a sucker for a grumpy hero who does absolutely nothing but simp for his love. Like he is on her team IMMEDIATELY. He’d do just about anything for her, and frequently does. Hell, Noah offers to marry her just so she can inherit her farm! THAT’S NOT NOTHING.

Together, they are so, so steamy. They have chemistry right off the bat, and I loved how Canterbary wrote these two together. I will definitely be checking out more of her work, even if I wasn’t super into the first book I tried by her (The Belle and the Beard, in case you were curious.) But this book has me hoping for more like this. I want more like this right now, please. (Send me recs!!!)

The other characters in In A Jam are equally amazing — especially Noah’s niece, Gennie. I loved every second of her, and I ESPECIALLY loved that she actually sounded like a kid, and not like a weird baby-child-combo that some authors write. Shay’s friends were on her side constantly, and it was nice to see support without babying the person being supported. They were all also unique and not caricatures of types of people.

I would have read 92480234 more pages of this one. Five stars.

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ARC REVIEW: EMPIRE OF EXILES BY ERIN M. EVANS

the book cover for Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 448 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 8th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Murder, death, kidnapping,
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Twenty-seven years ago, a Duke with a grudge led a ruthless coup against the empire of Semilla, killing thousands. He failed. The Duke was executed, a terrifyingly powerful sorcerer was imprisoned, and an unwilling princess disappeared.

The empire moved on.

Now, when Quill, an apprentice scribe, arrives in the capital city, he believes he’s on a simple errand for another pompous noble: fetch ancient artifacts from the magical Imperial Archives. He’s always found his apprenticeship to be dull work. But these aren’t just any artifacts — these are the instruments of revolution, the banners under which the Duke lead his coup.

Just as the artifacts are unearthed, the city is shaken by a brutal murder that seems to have been caused by a weapon not seen since the days of rebellion.

Since Quill is the only reliable witness to the murder, and no one in power believes his story, he must join with a young mage, a seasoned archivist, and a disillusioned detective to find the truth of the attack. And what they uncover will be the key to saving the empire – or destroying it for good. 

Empire of Exiles is one of the most wildly original fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. I had no idea what this book was really about when Orbit sent it my way, but wow. Take the typical fantasy novel, add a dash of locked-room, a dash of murder, and a splash a mystery and you’ve got this book.

So — a murder mystery set in something like a locked-room.

Is your interest piqued? How about I tempt you further?

Humans are, but one type of being in this world. There are beings with tentacles, beings with horns, and beings that I think can see in the dark? I’m not sure on that one, it wasn’t explained in detail. And lastly — there are beings called changelings who can turn into anyone. At all. At will. (See why the murder mystery is extra interesting in this one?) Basically — the world of Empire of Exiles is wildly diverse, and the beings included are so very different to what I’m used to in my fantasy books. It’s so refreshing to have some different types of beings than the usual elves, dwarves, orcs.

The setting itself is fascinating, and I really, really wish we had seen more of it. We really only see one corner of one city, and that’s it. Everything we see is set inside a massive salt wall and no one is allowed to go outside it. The wall was put up long ago to magically to protect everyone from the changelings. The changelings were taking over, and causing havoc, and so the wall was built to keep them out, forever.

And the magic system? Talk about another absolutely unique point to this book. Those who have magic are usually called ‘specialists’ and they specialize in one particular thing — some seen directly on page are bronze, glass, ink, or bone. Their abilities wax and wane throughout the year, and at certain times they are in danger of ‘spiralling’ — when their power goes extremely out of their control and they attempt to turn into whatever their medium is. It’s dangerous, and the author does a fantastic job of showing how this feels.

The characters are another great piece to this amazing puzzle, but I really don’t want to spoil too much about them for anyone so I’m going to sum them up very quickly: Quill – naïve boy who wants to help, Amadea – extreme mom friend, Yinii – precious cinnamon roll who I would protect with my life, Richa – a ‘detective’ type with actual morals. There are others, but these have the most page time, and they all are so fantastically well done.

It took me a tiny bit to sink into the book — you have to really follow what Evans sets up carefully — but once you’re there, you’re there. I loved this, and I can’t wait to see where Evans goes in the next one.

EMPIRE OF EXILES comes out November 8th 2022.

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BOOK REVIEW: A STRANGE AND STUBBORN ENDURANCE BY FOZ MEADOWS

the book cover for A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 544 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: July 26th 2022
  • PUBLISHER:  Tor Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Rape, suicide attempt, animal death

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

SYNOPSIS

“Stolen me? As soon to say a caged bird can be stolen by the sky.”

Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead.

Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock.

With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page.

Before I get into my review any further, I do want to make note of the content warnings for this book. There is a rape scene on page. It is fairly detailed. It happens within the first five or six chapters. It is quick, but very easy to see coming. It should be fairly easy to skip over if this would trigger you. I’d give you exact page counts, but I apologize, I don’t have a physical copy.

With that out of the way, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an absolutely gorgeously written story. It took me a few pages to get used to Foz Meadow’s writing — it’s a bit flowery compared to what I’m used to — but once I sunk in, it’s like being surrounded by the most beautiful garden imaginable. The world is fantastic — built out just enough to make it feel large and different to our own. The cultures included are so very different, but felt well-rounded and real. But out of everything, I fell in love with the characters, most of all.

Velasin is our main character — most of the story is told through his eyes, in first person POV. He is dealing with some severe PTSD after his sexual assault at the very beginning of the novel. He’s unsure what his place is in the world, and he’s been thrust into an arranged marriage he wasn’t really interested in. He’s got a lot going on, and Meadows does a fantastic job of making the reader feel with him.

Caethari is the other main character — Velasin’s new husband. Despite never meeting Velasin before, he is immediately protective and worried over him. Caethari is a sweetheart — but he’s also quite a badass, too. He never underestimates his new husband, and does everything he can to reassure Velasin that the world they now inhabit is so much different to the one that Velasin grew up in. Caethari was my favorite.

The general gist of the novel is political intrigue. Someone is trying to hurt Velasin, and break the marriage between him and Caethari. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a highly political novel, with a romance on the side. (Compared to A Taste of Gold and Iron, another book I absolutely adored, which is a romance novel with some political intrigue on the side.) The romance takes its time forming in the book, which I was thoroughly a fan of. You really get the feel that Caethari and Velasin grow into their love instead of it happening right away. Yes, the story takes place over like…two weeks. Doesn’t matter. It feels plenty long in the book, I promise.

The reveal of who is behind all the stunts and murders is fantastic. I didn’t think the book would actually go there, but it DID, and it was the perfect choice. The ending and solving of everything happens flashbang quick, but is very satisfying. Five stars.

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