Mini Reviews

Hello!

For the first post today I have a bunch of smaller reviews from netgalley reads over the last couple of months, which are mostly a mixture of YA and Fantasy this time around, with a couple of others in the mix.

*Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of these books from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

***** *****

How to be Ace: A Memoir of Growing up Asexual – Rebecca Burgess

Genre: Memoir | Comics & Graphic Novels | LGBTQIA

Book Summary:

“When I was in school, everyone got to a certain age where they became interested in talking about only one thing: boys, girls and sex. Me though? I was only interested in comics.”

Growing up, Rebecca assumes sex is just a scary new thing they will ‘grow into’ as they get older, but when they leave school, start working and do grow up, they start to wonder why they don’t want to have sex with other people.

In this brave, hilarious and empowering graphic memoir, we follow Rebecca as they navigate a culture obsessed with sex – from being bullied at school and trying to fit in with friends, to forcing themself into relationships and experiencing anxiety and OCD – before coming to understand and embrace their asexual identity.

Giving unparalleled insight into asexuality and asexual relationships, How To Be Ace shows the importance of learning to be happy and proud of who you are.

Review:

This is a book I wish had been available when I was younger, as I have never felt as seen as I did in the questions that were asked in this book. I think the fact that this is a memoir rather than a ‘guide’ is why it works so well, because you can relate so much to the story, and the voice of the author, which would be missing in something more practical. That said, I really appreciated the info graphics at the end of each chapter, especially with the acknowledgement of the spectrum that comes under the ace umbrella, as well as the list of resources at the back. I loved the art style, and it was one that is appealing to both younger and older readers. A fantastic book and one that is much needed.

Rating: ***** (5/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

***** *****

Fallen Queen (Mariposa Book 1) – Y. R. Shin

Genre: Fantasy | YA

Book Summary:

An eighteen-year-old daughter of a horse dealer, Reuyen Detua, is the reincarnation of Queen Swan Sekalrid Rarkalia. Queen Swan was beheaded by her own husband two hundred years ago for being a tyrant after years of conquest that left the country neglected.

Reuyen faces an impasse between Paseid Calandok Brionake, in whom she sees sides of her stoic, calculating, and cold husband who truly was thoughtful and kind, and Balroid Peijak Mariposa, her previous half-brother and “the queen’s knight,” who begs for her love while showing unbridled hatred for his motherland.

The clash of the three marks the beginning of a distressing, violent, vicious war, much like their love.

Reuyen once again holds up her royal sword and forges destiny. The unexpectedly intricate epic will reveal itself as the story follows Reuyen’s battles.  

Review:

This book has a lot of potential, and possibly in future books it will reach that, but this one fell short for me. I loved the premise, and it had a fantastic introduction that drew me in at the start, but then the flow of the storyline unfortunately lost me. Despite the promising premise, it felt as though there wasn’t a major overarching narrative to draw the book together, and there was a disconnect driven by this and flashbacks, with the present often being unexplained which gave me the feeling of me adrift. The characters could have used some more development as well, although I accept that this is only the first book and therefore there is time for that growth, but again it felt as though there was a disconnect between them and the plot for the most part. That said, I did enjoy Reuyen as a character and would like to see more from her. Overall, it had promise, but it needs to do more to convince me of its narrative.

Rating: ** (2/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones


***** *****

The Winter Duke – Claire Eliza Bartlett

Genre: Fantasy | YA

Book Summary:

SHE SURVIVED THE CURSE. NOW SHE MUST SURVIVE THE THRONE.

All Ekata wants is to stay alive—and the chance to prove herself as a scholar. Once Ekata’s brother is finally named heir to the dukedom of Kylma Above, there will be nothing to keep her at home with her murderous family. Not her books or her experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness, and no one can find a cure.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s captivating warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love. . .or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s magic and power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield them both.


Review:

The Winter Duke was everything that was promised by that stunning cover and the blurb, and it was beautifully executed from start to finish. I don’t usually go for court intrigue fantasy like this, but I am so glad that I have this time, because the plot was so well crafted that it kept me guessing until the very end and it was one of those books that I couldn’t put down, because

I needed to know what happened next and to try and unravel the puzzle.
The world that Bartlett created in the Winter Duke was perfect for the story, and had the kind of atmosphere that steals your breath and leaves you feeling as though you’re right there. The descriptions were vivid and alluring, and drew me in like a moth to the flame.

The characters were wonderfully human, and it was impossible not to become invested in their stories and relationships, even if the character wasn’t likeable. The blossoming relationship between Ekata and Inkar was perfect, and a joy to read, and both had very unique voices that complemented one another in circumstances that were set against them from start to finish.

A stunning book, that I would absolutely recommend.

Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Toppings & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Leave the World Behind – Rumaan Alum

Genre: General Fiction | Sci Fi & Fantasy | Mystery & Thrillers

Book Summary:

Amanda and Clay head to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a holiday: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older couple – it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area – with the TV and internet now down, and no phone service – it’s hard to know what to believe.

Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple – and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the holiday home, isolated from civilisation, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another?

Review:

Unfortunately this one just didn’t work for me. I loved the premise which is why I requested it, and I will say that the atmosphere throughout the entire book is fantastic, and Leave the World Behind is one of those books that blurs genre lines in the best way possible. Not only that but it tackles a lot of deep themes, and tackles them well, and it makes for a thought provoking and uncomfortable read, again building that atmosphere. It was the writing that lost me, as the prose for the most part felt overdone, as though the author was trying to push too hard rather than letting it flow, and it made it hard for me to be swept away by the good parts of the book. I can certainly understand why people will love this book, it just wasn’t for me.

Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

***** *****

The Swords of Silence – Shaun Curry

Genre: Historical Fiction | Sci Fi & Fantasy

Book Summary:

Where once new ideas and beliefs were accepted, now the country’s military dictator, the Shogun is shutting his country down to any outside influences.

Father Joaquim Martinez who left Portugal to make Hizen Province, Japan his home, has been quietly tending to the lives of his villagers, but everything is about to be thrown into turmoil, as the Shogun has outlawed Martinez’s beliefs. Those who won’t recant or accept banishment, face a death sentence.

With the threat of a massacre looming, and the Shogun’s Samurai closing in, Father Martinez must decide, if he is willing to risk everything, to save those he has sworn to protect.

Review:

The Swords of Silence left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is about a historical period and culture that I am interested in, and the amount of research that has obviously gone into this book, makes it a standout read in that regard. Unfortunately, it was the execution that I struggled with – not the brutality of the book, although a fair warning it is brutal and does not shy away from the darker, harsher aspects of this period. However, there were many places where it felt as though the historical detail outweighed any sense of narrative, which is always a delicate balance in historical fiction that wasn’t maintained here, as well as an almost overwhelming focus on the religious aspect. Fitting for the period and events, but it resulted in a narrative and characters that felt as though it was too defined by that single aspect, which made it difficult at times to make that connection. I will say that I found it well-paced, and it set a strong foundation for the rest of the series, and some of the action scenes were beautifully written, and were certainly my favourite parts of the book. I would recommend to people with a keen interest in this historical period, especially those who want that level of detail and aren’t put off by the brutal reality portrayed in this narrative.

Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Toppings & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Garth Nix

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy

Book Summary:

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

Review:

It has been far too long since I’ve read a Garth Nix book (although Angel Mage is glaring at me on the shelf), and this was a wonderfully entertaining romp through an alternative London, complete with books (and you can never have too many of those), and folklore.
I adored the premise of this book, and for the most part, I thought that it was executed very well. This was a love letter to books, but not a book about books. It rode that line beautifully while very much taking that idea of there being magic in books, as well using folklore and mythology to create a world that felt very different, while also being something you could imagine being just one step out of line with our world. As though if you opened the right book, or went into the right bookshop, you could stumble into that world. The worldbuilding was certainly one of my favourite aspects of the book, from the New World to the Old World, and the magical system which was well-crafted and an excellent reminder of how much I enjoy Nix’s fantasy writing.
I enjoyed the characters, although I would have liked to have had more time to explore the secondary characters in the world, as we spent most of our time with Susan, Merlin and Vivian. However, those main three were, for the most part, well-developed, and it was fun to read about their adventures, and I was invested in the outcome of their goals and storylines.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London was incredibly fast-paced, and hits the ground running and doesn’t let up, and at times it felt as though you were caught up in a whirlwind, seeing glimpses of the world and characters without being able to get a proper grasp of them. While I love Nix’s writing, I would have loved to see it slow down in places, to get a better grasp on the wider cast of this fantastic world, and to find out more about the interaction between the Old and New Worlds, and even more about the Booksellers. However, for all that, the book felt very complete in and of itself, with just enough in the ending to leave me hoping that at some point in the future we might see more from this world.

Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Toppings & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Betrayals – Bridget Collins

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Literary Fiction

Book Summary:

Léo was once a student at Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, where students learn an arcane and mysterious game. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning. 

Claire is the first woman to serve as Montverre’s Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses a connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before.

As secrets whisper in the walls and the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, will Léo discover the truth about Claire – and will that truth destroy them both? 

Review:

The Betrayals – like The Binding – is beautifully written, and I don’t think I will ever get enough of the author’s prose, and the book outside of the ‘grand jeu’ was wonderful, and I enjoyed the setting and characters. What, did lose me a little, and made me debate whether to round up to 4 stars or not, is that the ‘grand jeu’ itself left me feeling as though I was flailing around in the dark parts of the book, and even when the answers were reveled towards the end, I felt as though there was something beyond my grasp. However, I did enjoy the book and it was a engrossing read, albeit confusing in places, and in the end it was the writing that pushed this to a four stars for me.

Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

***** *****

Down Comes The Night – Allison Saft

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy | Teens & YA

Book Summary:

Honor your oath, destroy your country.

Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.

When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.

As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.

Review:

I have mixed feelings about this one. I loved the cover and the gothic vibes it gave, and the premise sounded right up my street, but I don’t feel as though it lived up to what it was promising. There is a somewhat gothic atmosphere at points throughout the book, but for the most part it feels like it veers more firmly into being a mystery with a gothic-esque backdrop. However, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the writing in this book, it flowed beautifully and created a intriguing and fascinating story, on deep, detailed worldbuilding, and while it did take me a while to warm to some of the characters, once I had, they were were well written too. It just fell short of what I had been expecting, but it was still an entertaining read and a strong debut and it would be interesting to see more set in this world.

Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US

***** *****

Queens, Kings & Monsters – Teddy Baire

Genre: New Adult | Sci Fi & Fantasy

Book Summary:

In this New Adult Dark Fantasy, Swords and Magic are what define the five kingdoms of Ellendor. Five Kingdoms split between four queens and a singular king. But this world is about change in unforeseen ways.

Chased from her home and separated from her father, the young girl Rana seeks shelter wherever she can. Finding help in a dubious set of circumstances. Rana must protect herself and navigate a new world of magic and murder where she and the woman around her are seen as mere commodities for consumption. How will she find her way home from the lifestyle that she has been thrust into?

But in the land of the five kingdoms, nothing is ever as easy as it seems to be. Which Victor Krill, a soon to be retired military general is about to find out. Retirement has a completely different outcome than he could have expected.

Join them on their journey and discover the hidden secrets that are scattered throughout the five kingdoms.

Review:

Firstly I have to say that I loved the cover for this one, and the premise was intriguing. There were a few places however, where the execution failed. I think the primary issue was there were aspects of the worldbuilding and character backstories, that gave the impression that there should have been an earlier book or more development, which was a little jarring and left me feeling a little lost at place.

That said it was an enjoyable enough read, and the plot and writing flowed well, and I did enjoy the characters. There were some darker themes, and while the main protagonist is a teen, this book could not and should not be pushed into the YA section.

Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US

***** *****

Legendborn – Tracy Deonn

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy | Teens & YA

Book Summary:

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential programme for bright high-schoolers at UNC – Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape – until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts – and fails – to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets – and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down – or join the fight.

Review:

I loved the cover for Legendborn, and the premise was intriguing and the execution was fantastic, and I think this is probably one of if not my favourite YA read so far this year.

In particular I loved the nuance that every character had, without breaking that boundary between adult and teen which sometimes throws me out of a YA. Bree in particular was a fantastic character, and she had so many different facets that made her feel alive and real, without leaning into the types you often see. This was reflected across the cast, even in those characters that you dislike have the same depth of character and I would say that the characterization was probably my favourite part of this book.

Legendborn also has a rich, diverse world and cast, and it doesn’t shy away from tackling issues from grief, up to racism and inequality, in a way that isn’t overwhelming but is an integral part of the world and story. There is a delicacy and a strength to the approach to these topics, which gave the story much greater impact. Especially, when it was combined with imaginative and immersive worldbuilding, that really brought Legendborn to life.

Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Toppings & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Brigands (A Blackguards Anthology) – Bradley P. Beaulieu, Zin E. Rocklyn, Richard Lee Byers, Lian Hearn, David Dalglish, Linda Robertson, Anton Strout, Jean Rabe, Joseph Lallo, Anthony Lowe, Laura Resnick, Kenny Soward, & Erik Scott de Bie

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy

Book Summary:

Stealing into shadows. Coveting coin…and blood. No one is safe from the schemes of those who lurk in the city’s underworld-those who prey on the weak and naive. Within these pages lie tales of intrigue and murder, thievery, and revenge, by bestselling and award-winning authors like Bradley P. Beaulieu, Jean Rabe, Lian Hearn, Anton Strout, and many more!

Review:

Another fantastic collection of short stories. Most of these authors were new too me, and it was a fantastic way to dip my toes into their writing, and I enjoyed the array of stories and worlds in these short stories. I don’t think there was a single story that felt out of place, or that I enjoyed less than the others and the writing was spectacular throughout. Some of my favourites included ‘Take You Home’ and ‘The Loyal Dagger’, but I would recommend the entire collection.

Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US

***** *****

Scoundrels (A Blackguards Anthology) – Elaine Cunningham, Rob J. Hayes, Anthony Ryan, Jon Sprunk, Cat Rambo, Rebecca Lovatt, James A. Moore, Peter Orullian, Django Wexler, S.R. Cambridge, Shawn Speakman, Edward M. Erdelac, & Clay Sanger

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy

Book Summary:

Featuring thirteen tales of scheming anti-heroes and dark protagonists from the wrong side of the palace gates, Knaves brings together some of the finest fantasy authors in the industry in a book that will make readers wonder, “What is the ‘right side,’ anyway?”

Stealing into shadows. Coveting coin…and blood. No one is safe from the schemes of those who lurk in the city’s underworld-those who prey on the weak and naive. Within these pages lie tales of intrigue and murder, thievery, and revenge.

Review:

This was a fantastic collection of short stories, that explored that boundary between right and wrong, with a fascinating array of approaches and characters. Most of the authors in this collection were new to me, and I will certainly be checking out more of their work in the future. Some of my favourite ones were ‘Honest Trade’ and ‘To the End’ – the first left me desperately wanting to know more about the world and the magic but was a complete story in and of itself. While the other one was fun, and further confirmation that I really need to read all of Hayes work, but there wasn’t a single story in this collection that I didn’t enjoy, and I wish that all of these stories could have been longer.

Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)

Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US

***** *****

If you’ve read any of these, or read them in the future please feel free to shout at me about them.

Rowena

One thought on “Mini Reviews

  1. Pingback: October Wrap-Up and What’s On for November

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