Today, I’ve got something truly special for you: The House of Hidden Wonders by Sharon Gosling (with a gorgeous cover by Hannah Peck). I don’t write about children’s books a lot, and I don’t read them nearly enough, but I really hope to do so more, as this was an absolute treat from beginning to end.
Many thanks to Charlie Morris and Little Tiger Publishing for the review copy in exchange for this honest review.
RELEASE DATE: 02/04/20
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Zinnie and her sisters live in the murky tunnels beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town. They keep out of the way of the authorities and remain undetected. Until, that is, rumours of a ghost bring unwanted visitors into the caverns they call home. Among them, a young Arthur Conan Doyle, keen to investigate, and MacDuff, the shady owner of Edinburgh’s newest attraction, the House of Wonders.
Caught up in a world of intrigue and adventure, Zinnie seeks answers. But how can she discover what secrets lie in the House of Wonders while also protecting the sisters she holds so dear? (from Little Tiger)
OPINIONS: So, all I had to hear was history, adventure, museum and curious girls, and I was hooked! Once I started reading, it took no time for me to lose myself in Zinnie’s Edinburgh, and join her on her quest to protect her sisters and discover the secret of the House of Wonders. The House of Hidden Wonders is a thrilling story of a group of young girls making their way in a world stacked against them, featuring themes of found family, diversity and acceptance. Through the story of ghosts and mystery, ultimately, Zinnie shows the world around her how crucial it is to see beyond the obvious and accept and support each other for who they are. We modern grown-ups would do well to listen to her!
In its historical Edinburgh setting, we encounter some familiar figures, such as a young Arthur Conan Doyle, a medical student who is embarking on his first writing exploits, or Sophia Jex-Blake, one of the first female doctors, who opened a practice in Edinburgh in the late nineteenth-century. Others, such as Lady Sarah or Macduff might not be historical figures, but fit into the story just as well, and round out the cast of adults. The girls, Zannie, Sadie, Nell and Aelfine are all utterly different and equally wonderful, each with their quirks and flaws, but lovable to the core. Nell is portrayed as dark-skinned, and Aelfine was likely born with what we would call Down Syndrome today – making Zannie fiercly protective of them, and educating the world in how they should be treating them. It is clear that much care went into researching The House of Hidden Wonders, and the effort pays off.
In short, this is everything I would have wanted in a children’s book back when I was a child, and I would happily buy The House of Hidden Wonders for any child in my life! (And really, kidlit is great for getting your mind off things during this awful situation, so why not try it for yourself?) Add it on Goodreads here, or pre-order it from Waterstones or your retailer of choice, you won’t regret it!
March is almost over! Although it feels as if this month has lasted a lifetime, it is finally nearing its end – and with it the series of FFBC blog tours I had planned for you. But never fear, I have lots of fun and exciting content planned for April as well… Today though, we are here to discuss Between Burning Worlds by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell, the second the System Divine series, which is basically Les Mis in space!
Check out the full tour schedule here, and have a look at the posts my lovely co-bloggers have created for their stops on the tour. Many thanks to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for the inclusion on the tour, and to Netgalley and Simon Pulse for the eARC.
RELEASE DATE: 24/03/20
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
A thief. An officer. A guardian.
All from different backgrounds, but sharing one same destiny…
The planet Laterre is in turmoil. A new militant revolutionary group has emerged calling themselves “The Red Scar” and claiming responsibility for a spate of recent bombings. The infamous rebels known as the Vangarde believe that in order to bring about a peaceful revolution, their charismatic leader, Citizen Rousseau must be freed from prison right away. Otherwise the bloodshed will only escalate.
Soon Marcellus, Chatine, and Alouette all find themselves pulled into battle with extreme consequences.
Marcellus is determined to uncover his corrupt grandfather’s plan to seize Laterre—even if that means joining the Vangarde.
Aloutte, trying to unearth the truth about her past, becomes a captive of Marcellus’s grandfather, the general.
Chatine, who is serving time on Bastille, hopes to escape the brutal and horrifying reality of the prison moon.
But the failed attempt to break Citizen Rousseau out of prison launches Aloutte, Chatine, and Marcellus into the middle of a dangerous war for control of Laterre. And in the midst of it all is the legend of a secret and dangerous weapon that could mean complete and absolute power to any that wields it.
OPINIONS: Set at a bit of a distance from the first book, Sky Without Stars, Between Burning Worlds dives right into the action. Following the parallel strands of Chatine, Marcellus and Alouette’s stories, it continues to depict the social unrest on Laterre, and the threat of complete revolution and devastating war. However, at the end of Sky Without Stars, Marcellus had discovered that his grandfather, the General, had been behind much of the brutal, supposed revolutionary action, trying to rule the population through fear. In Between Burning Worlds, Marcellus and his friends discover that there might be even more to his grandfather’s plans than they suspected, a quest that takes them further than they ever thought possible…
While the first book dragged at times and needed to introduce a lot of world-building, this second installment is action-packed and thrilling. Introducing several new factions and places into the mix, as well as leaving more space for reflection and growth, this collaboration comes into its own in Between Burning Worlds. Characters get more depth, and a number of open threads get resolved – although we still end up with many unanswered questions by the end of the book!
I really appreciate how these books advocate for peaceful rebellion over bloodshed, how violence on both sides is shown as something to avoid. All too often, righteous violence is depicted as positive, when, really, it too needs to be avoided. I’m glad the characters struggle with their conscience if they have to defend themselves, even if the situation is clear in context. In the current climate, we need more pacifism.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
JESSICA BRODY knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape. After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author. Since then, Jessica has sold many novels for teens, tweens, and adults. Her books are published and translated in over twenty foreign countries. She currently splits her time between California and Colorado. You can find here here:
- Website: https://www.jessicabrody.com/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1164465.Jessica_Brody
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessicabrody
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaBrodyFans/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessicabrody/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jessicabrody1
- Tumblr: http://jessicabrody.tumblr.com/
JOANNE RENDELL is the author of four novels and holds a PhD in English Literature. She teaches fiction writing to teens and kids, as well as online writing classes at Udemy.com and Lynda.com. Joanne is a board member for the youth Shakespeare company, New Genesis Productions. With her husband and son, she divides her time between New York City and New Paltz, New York. Her weblinks are as follows:
With everything going on at the moment, I’ve been struggling with reading – being me, I’m still reading more than most, but I’m having a really hard time focusing for extended periods of time and usually get distracted every few pages. So I’ve been trying to trick myself by reading fifty page bits and having multiple books on the go in different formats at the same time to keep up with reviewing. But The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart managed to bypass all of that, and I accidentally finished the whole book in a single sitting!
Oona’s refreshing, humorous voice hits the tone of the time, and is the perfect story to read in these troubled times. A massive thanks to Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for the review copy of this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review!
RELEASE DATE: 05/03/20
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Brooklyn, 1982. Oona Lockhart is about to celebrate her 19th birthday and ring in the New Year. But at the stroke of midnight, she is torn from her friends and boyfriend, finding herself in her fifty-one-year-old body, thirty-two years into the future.
Greeted by a friendly stranger, Oona learns that on every birthday she will leap into a different age at random. Still a young woman on the inside, but ever changing on the outside, who will she be next year? Wealthy philanthropist? Nineties Club Kid? World traveller? Wife to a man she’s never met?
As she struggles between fighting her fate and accepting it, Oona must learn to navigate a life that’s out of order – but is it broken? (from Gollancz)
OPINIONS: I find it really interesting that the US and UK versions are so different! It’s not unusual to have separate covers, but this is one of the first books where I’ve seen them change the title – they seem to speak to different audiences, which I guess makes sense when you consider the imprints publishing the novel in both markets. Where the UK cover focuses on the time-traveling aspect, being published by a SFF imprint, the US version seems to be aimed at more of a chick-lit audience, where Oona is published by a general fiction publisher.
But whether as The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart or Oona Out of Order, Margarita Montimore has presented us with a magnificent debut, crossing genre boundaries and speaking directly to a generation of millennials trying find their place in the world. Oona’s first jump is reminiscent of the classic Jennifer Garner film 13 going on 30, which probably everyone in my generation has seen, and thus immediately evokes a feeling of comfort and nostalgia. As a nineteen-year-old in a middle-aged body, skipping from the eighties to the modern day, Oona has a lot of adjusting to do – some days I still feel like Oona, displaced into a modern world reliant on technology, having forgotten how to live in the moment.
As Oona learns how to navigate the world and her unique life, we get to meet many of her companions through the years. Some are positive figures, some less so, but something that they all have in common is that they are utterly human. Just like Oona is so real it hurts at times, her supporting cast come with their own sets of issues and aims, hurts and wants. Margarita Montimore makes these flawed characters come to life and tell their story in a way that makes it exciting, even if you sometimes already know how it will end.
A story of love and loss, trust and betrayal, and most of all, finding out who you are, The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart is a gem of a debut, and I savoured every moment of it. I expect I will be rereading it every once in a while, and I highly suggest you add it to your TBR as well. Add it on Goodreads here, and here are your order links for Hive and Waterstones.
I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.
The Spanish Inqusition is one of the periods of history that scares me most of all. While xenophobia and hatred is in no way unique to that period, its setting in an age that is usually perceived as the Renaissance, supposedly an age of great civilisation and progress, combined with an extreme level of state-sanctioned cruelty is harrowing. Inspired by this period of Latin history, Zoraida Còrdova’s new novel Incendiary, the first in the Hollow Crown series, is set against the background of a war between Andalucía and Moria – with the remaining Moria, possessing magical abilities, slowly but surely being decimated.
As a history nerd, I simply had to read Incendiary as soon as possible, and am immensely grateful to Kate Keehan and Hodder for providing me with an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.
RELEASE DATE: 28/04/20
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Renata was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucía. As a memory thief, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata was used by the crown to carry out the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.
Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred—or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she drained during her time in the palace.
When Dez, the commander of her unit—and the boy she’s grown to love—is taken captive by the notorious Príncipe Dorado, Renata must return to the palace and complete Dez’s top secret mission herself. Can she keep her cover, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.
But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the fate of the entire kingdom—and end the war that has cost her everything. (from Zoraida’s website)
OPINIONS: I loved Incendiary from start to finish, I could not put it down. I would argue that it is Zoraida’s best work to date, and I cannot wait for the sequel (WHY DOES READING ARCS MEAN WAITING SO LONG FOR THE STORY TO CONTINUE?!) Renata is a wonderfully complex heroine struggling against the world, the regime, and, most of all, herself. Over the course of the story, she grows, learns, and realises that the world is not as black and white as she had believed, and that she might need to learn how to trust in order to survive and succeed. As a Moria with the powers of memory, a Robari, rare and valuable to the regime, Renata is coveted by both sides, but trusted by neither, and one of the most important elements of the story is that she needs to find herself in this mess.
But of course Incendiary is not centered around a single character – it would not be a true Zoraida Còrdova novel if there were not group heist shenanigans and ensuing chaos! Combined with the spring 2020 revolution trend, I think we can safely assume that we have a hit on our hands. An imaginative world, well-crafted characters and a thrilling story are bound to enchant readers and leave them wanting more.
I’m actually having a hard time thinking about what to say about Incendiary apart from READ IT – it is a wonderful book, and I do highly recommend it! It has everything I like in a book (except, maybe, dragons, but those wouldn’t make any sense), and I loved that it based a high fantasy world on a Latin perspective, rather than classical mid-European sword-and-sorcery imagery. Add Incendiary on Goodreads here, and pre-order it from Hive or Waterstones, or your indie of choice!
Sarya is the last human, as far as she knows. Being in Corona-isolation makes us all live that feeling to an extent at the moment. It was interesting, celebrating my birthday in isolation with my flatmate today, although luckily modern technology helps us keep up communication lines. It is a very different situation, but reading The Last Human has made me think a lot about isolation and identity, and my brain has forged a connection between the two that now seems unbreakable. I really hope that my experience of self-isolation and the associated brainfog has not affected my perception of the book too much!
I am very grateful to Kate Keehan and Hodder & Stoughton for the advance copy of The Last Human by Zack Jordan in exchange for this honest review.
RELEASE DATE: 24/03/20
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Sarya is the galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human.
But most days, she doesn’t feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy. No, most days, she’s got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn’t casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.
And most days, she can almost accept that she’ll never know the truth about why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist, or whether she really is – impossibly – the lone survivors of a species destroyed a millennium ago. That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter leaves her life and her perspective shattered.
Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship, Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth. Humanity’s death and her own existence might simply be two moves in a demented cosmic game, one that might offer the thing she wants most in the universe – a second chance for herself, and one for humanity. (from Hodder & Stoughton)
OPINIONS: Out tomorrow, The Last Human starts with an intriguing concept. Sarya, the last human, has been raised by a Widow. A creature I imagine to look sort of like a massive spider, with blades in place of legs. Their society is based on survival of the fittest, a lack of feelings and sentimentality, and still, one of their most ruthless widows adopted Sarya as her Daughter. Sadly, this promising set-up is soon left behind for a romp through space with little substance for the middle parts of the book. While the ending picks up again, I struggled with motivation and focus to finish the story after the focus left the Widow storyline.
I hate not loving a book I was really excited about initially. So I tried taking a break for a few days, reading small chunks, but the rest of the book sadly did not click with me. If it had been a book about Sarya the Daughter and Shenya the Mother, I would have devoured it completely. But like this, it left me hanging. The characters were reminiscent of NPCs that you meet in order to get one piece of information, hanging in space without story or personality, and many of them left lose story threads hanging – The Last Human is, as far as I know, a standalone novel.
As someone who connects to story through characters, this left me detached from the plot and its philosophical considerations. The novel’s writing is generally well-executed, although clunky at times, and could have benefited from losing some of its overwrought metaphor – there were a few instances where the author used common phrases referring to human body parts and ‘adapted’ them to Widow use, making them sound cringe-worthy rather than funny (such as “on the other blade”), pulling the reader out of the flow. Something I really liked though were the little info inserts in between all the chapters!
A tightening of plot, characters, and language down to a smooth red thread with fewer frayed ends would have improved the novel immensely. But I do encourage you to have a read for yourself! Add it on Goodreads here, and order it from Hive here or Waterstones here, or of course your indie of choice.
Once more onto the breech, my friends! A mix of modern queer witchery and ancient Celtic legend, Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer hits the pulse of the time perfectly. I love that elements that rank among my favourites are such a trend at the moment – this book is perfect for fans of Toil and Trouble, Sanctuary, Amy Rose Capetta, Sarah Gailey, and the many other recent sapphic witch books!
This post is part of the Fantastic Flying Bookclub Blog Tour, and I encourage you to check out the full schedule here, and read some of my co-blogger’s opinions as well! As usual with the FFBC, there is also a giveaway for a beautiful finished copy of the book for a reader in the US – click on this link here to enter. Thank you to the FFBC for having me, and NetGalley and Freeform for the eARC to review. (I bought the finished copy in the picture myself)
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/20
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.
OPINIONS: Murrrrderrrr. Murder most foul in quaint Ireland. I love myself a good murder mystery, and especially one that involves magic and rituals. The premise of a serial killer reappearing after years intrigued me from the start, and was well executed into its details – E. Latimer went into a lot of nuance to craft things quite right and avoid potential loopholes! This is interwoven with Celtic legend, which made my medievalist heart very happy. It is not so mythology heavy to weigh down the book for those not familiar with Irish and the Irish tradition (which, from my experience teaching undergraduates is quite hard to get into at first), but just enough so to enhance the world-building and give it another dimension. As a nerd, I went and looked up the stories referenced, which made me enjoy Witches of Ash and Ruin even more – but that is absolutely not necessary.
The magic system used by the witches in the book themselves is relatively separate from these legends, apart from referencing deities that individual witches pledge themselves to. And oh the witches. Traumatised Dayna, needing protection, after having been outed as bisexual in her conservative, religious community. Tall, mysterious and distant Meiner, too soft in her grandmother’s opinion, trying to figure out who she wants to become. I think I too fell a little in love with her. Ambitious Cora, and free-spirited Reagan. Well-crafted, though not always as nuanced as I would have liked, the young generation of witches have their distinct personalities and roles to play in the story. In general, many of the characters were not necessary likeable, but interesting – but then, I don’t read books because I’m looking to find fluffy, nice people I want to be friends with.
I really enjoyed reading Witches of Ash and Ruin, and raced through the story to find out how it ended. While elements of the story were predictable at times, it did not detract from the pacing and the book as a whole. It worked well as a standalone novel, and I am very curious to read what E. Latimer comes up with next! Witches of Ash and Ruin is out now, order it from Book Depository now, or contact your indie of choice to get your hands on a copy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E. Latimer is a fantasy writer from Victoria, BC. Her middle grade novel, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray was published by Tundra Books, and was recently nominated for the Red Maple Fiction Award. In her spare time, she writes books, makes silly vlogs with the Word Nerds about writing, and reads excessively. Her latest novel, Witches of Ash and Ruin, will be released Spring/Summer 2020 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. You can find her online here:
Brace yourself for a long Hype Post this month, as I’m trying to boost as many authors as I can in these insecure and unpredictable times! I’m not putting in pre-order links this time, please try to message/email small bookshops, they’ll be very happy to help you! I’m partial to the Portal Bookshop in York (although I haven’t had the chance to visit in person yet) and have just put in a big order. If it is Kids/YA books you are after, I recommend Round Table Books in Brixton. These small shops are just as dependent on your continued custom as are the authors publishing right now.
Usually, I’m the one who finds books that other people have not heard about and raves about them until they cannot resist reading them. With Queen of Coin and Whispers, however, most of the British fantasy authors I follow, and quite a few people in the fantasy (publishing) community have been raving about this queer debut fantasy by Irish author Helen Corcoran. Featuring a young queen and her spymaster, plots and treason, this promises to be an intriguing read!
I’m an absolute sucker for anything medieval inspired and queer – so I devoured last year’s Once & Future, the queerest sci-fi King Arthur retelling you’ll ever encounter! On April 7th, Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta are back with a vengeance and a sequel: Sword in the Stars. This time, Ari, Merlin, and the rest of the gang are travelling back in time to get their hands on the legendary Holy Grail… NEED THIS NOW. Also this counts as research. Muahaha.
Also out on the 7th is book three in Roshani Chokshi’s wonderful Aru Shah series: Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes. Part of my favourite children’s imprint, Rick Riordan Presents, she uses Indian mythology as a basis for her children’s adventure series. The first two were amazing, and I have high hopes for this third installment – I love these diverse, mythology inspired middle grades and I suggest you check them out too!
I have actually read an ARC of Incendiary by Zoraida Còrdova, and can vouch that it is a great book! My review will be up in the next couple of days, but I can promise that Renata’s story will capture you and transport you into a world where memories and magic are the key to revolution. This is Zoraida’s best work to date, and I can’t wait to read more of this luscious, latinx-inspired fantasy! I also highly suggest you check out the podcast she co-hosts with Dhonielle Clayton, Deadline City.
My big issue with books and series ending is that I always want to know what happens after, I just have a hard time believing in HEA – and I’m not talking about the ’19 years later’ thing in Harry Potter! Chosen Ones addresses exactly that: Taking place ten years after a group of five chosen ones defeated their world’s Dark One, they are confronted with the death of one of their own, trauma, and the possibility that they have to do it all again. I’m currently reading Chosen Ones, and am about halfway through – I’m loving it. There are nuanced depictions of characters dealing with difficult pasts, a compelling story and I can’t wait to see how the plot develops! This is out on the 7th of April, and if you are very keen, Fairyloot are even doing a special edition…
Last, but not least, on this list is The Devil’s Blade by Mark Alder. I have been extremely keen to read this one ever since I saw it announced in the Gollancz catalogue for Spring 2020, and am very excited to have it waiting for me on my Kindle. This intriguing historical fantasy is out on the 2nd of April, and is based on the life of Julie d’Aubigny. Legend has her as a bisexual, sword-wielding performer, but what if she also made a deal with the devil…? If we’re being honest, who wouldn’t want to read all about her?
Last year’s Wicked Saints was a special book. It read like a black metal song crossed with a twisted fairy tale. In theory, it was the perfect book for me. Its aesthetic was spot on, and it ticked all the boxes, but somehow, the pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit together quite right and while I liked it, I had also expected to love it more than I did. Nevertheless, I was incredibly excited when I got approved for an advance copy on Netgalley (many thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books!) of the sequel, Ruthless Gods. And doesn’t this series just have the best covers?!
RELEASE DATE: 07/04/20
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.
As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. Their paths are being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer. (from Wednesday Books)
OPINIONS: While many who loved Wicked Saints will enjoy Ruthless Gods just as much, for me, it exacerbated issues I had with the first book and I struggled to keep up motivation to finish. I am usually a very fast reader, and I easily get sucked into a story to the detriment of everything I am supposed to be doing – but with Ruthless Gods it was the exact opposite. I started reading in November or December and only finished now, having to force myself to continue a chapter at a time through the middle parts between other books. I wish I had enjoyed it more than I did!
One of the main issues I had throughout the book was that it felt like it was trying too hard. If Wicked Saints was your black-metal-loving cousin, then Ruthless Gods is his trve (yes, spelled with a v) Norwegian black metal friend who refuses to leave the house without corpse paint and spikes. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. The teen angst is strong with this one. The characters, which were still reasonably multi-dimensional in the first book, turned more and more into edgelord-types in this second volume, wearing their pain and issues on the outside and wallowing in their edginess. I felt that they lost self-reflection compared to the beginning of the series, which lost them many sympathy points with me and disconnected me from the story.
This, together with the fact that I read the book over a span of months instead of a few days, led to a lack of immediacy and drive in the plot. The prose felt overwritten, and the journey aimless. However, when action did happen, it felt like too much at the same time, without proper reflection. Some plot points had me rolling my eyes, and others were utterly predictable, having read a fair share of YA fantasy before.
Nevertheless, I can see many people loving Ruthless Gods just as much as they did Wicked Saints, it follows a similar formula and contains tropes known to be a surefire success in YA. It also has a stellar 4.13 rating on Goodreads as I write this review. But for me, it could have been so much more.
Today’s post is going to be something a bit different. Instead of one big review, it’s going to feature a whole bunch of mini-reviews, in the style of if you like this, you’ll love this! As we can all expect to be spending a lot more time at home (on the positive, more reading time!), I thought I’d feature a lot of lovely books to try and give you some inspiration for the days and weeks to come. This is also completely not selfishly motivated to help me reduce my NetGalley backlog at all, obviously – and unconnected to the fact that I’ve been ill and can’t focus for long enough to write proper reviews!
So without further ado, if you love…
…dragons, slow-burn enemies to lovers and wlw fantasy in the vein of Tehlor Kay Meija’s We Set the Dark on Fire, Nina Varela’s Crier’s War or Rebecca Kim Wells’ Shatter the Sky, check out The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli!
While The Sky Weaver is nominally the third in the Iskari trilogy, each of the books works just as well as a standalone. In this one, Safire, commander of armies, is vexed by Eris, a pirate and thief until they are forced to cooperate for the good of the realm. Throughout their quest to find Asha, the last Namsara, their lifes and fates become entangled and their hate evolves into something more… Beautifully written and well paced, this thrilling and action packed story will captivate you from start to finish! While the romance is not at the centre of the narrative, it is one of the most well-crafted slow-burn relationships I have ever read, and I have been on the lookout for something similarly well written ever since I read The Sky Weaver! The book also features dragons, aka the best animals ever, so there’s absolutely no reason not to order this from your indie of choice! I’ll leave a Hive link here for your convenience!
…creepy historical novels, ghosts, and eerie atmospheres in the spirit of Marian Womack’s The Golden Key, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep, give Alma Katsu’s The Deep a go.
Set in a dual narrative on the Titanic in 1912 and her sister ship, the Brittanic in 1916, The Deep follows young Annie Hebbley as she leaves home and works on both ill-fated ships. Following a series of unexplained events, and heists, join Annie in questioning her sanity. A haunting tale of obsession, The Deep takes unexpected turns and features a host of morally questionable characters that demand your attention. While this high-seas narrative does not feature any mermaids, the book as a whole is as alluring as a siren. Order yourself a copy from your indie of choice or here!
…ragtag bands of misfits, political turmoil and anti-heroes as seen in such wonderful books as R.F. Chuang’s The Poppy War, Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow, K.S. Villoso’s The Wolf of Oren-Yaro or Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, then I suggest you put Dave Wragg’s The Black Hawks on your TBR!
Chel is just your average dude. And then he accidentally breaks his oath and swears a new one to a prince. Now he has to bring said prince across the country. Except, both he and the prince are utterly clueless what they’re up against. On the way, they join forces with the eponymous Black Hawk Company, a wonderfully scrappy band of mercenary rogues, shenanigans and political mess ensuing. An entertaining debut featuring an excellent cast of characters full of flaws and personal motivations, Dave Wragg has delivered an intriguing beginning to his series. Thrilling and humorous, The Black Hawks is one to distract you from the worries of 2020. Treat yourself to a copy here.
…magical YA full of ensemble casts, dark forces looming and artificially created powers, reminiscent of great reads such as The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco or The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare, check out the Diviners series by Libba Bray. Book four, The King of Crows was just published and concluded the series wonderfully (yes, I’m cheating slightly).
The King of Crows is an explosive conclusion to the last ten years of Diviners stories. Evie and her band of diviners now face a an enemy threatening the world as they know it: the King of Crows. Having lost the goodwill of the people thanks to events earlier in the series, they undergo one last mission to try and repair the rift between worlds. Featuring a diverse cast addressing many of the issues present in early twentieth-century America, the characters evolve and grow into their own in order to defeat the King of Crows. My one gripe with the book was that, as the group was split into several smaller parties, the narrative was too split up, leading to a lack of depth in the individual plots. I would have preferred a tighter book at times. But then, that is personal preference, and I still very much enjoyed my read! You can order yourself a copy of this massive brick here.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with copies of all these wonderful books in exchange for my honest opinions!
I told you there would be a few blog tours this month! This one is for The June Boys by Court Stevens, a bit of a departure from the usual fare here on Libri Draconis. Rather than fantasy or science fiction, The June Boys is a YA murder mystery, and although I read them far to rarely, I do still have a soft spot for a good crime novel. There has been a recent resurgence of great YA mysteries and thrillers, and I’m all here for it – if you’re intrigued by The June Boys, check out the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson and Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer, and vice-versa!
Check out the tour schedule on the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s site to see all of the other amazing bloggers and bookstagrammers participating and read what they think of The June Boys. There is also a giveaway for a finished copy of the book for one lucky US participant, which you can enter by clicking on this Rafflecopter link!
As always, thank you so much for having me, FFBC, and thank you to Netgalley and Thomas Nelson for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/2020
STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: The Gemini Thief could be anyone. Your father, your mother, your best friend’s crazy uncle. Some country music star’s deranged sister. Anyone.
The Gemini Thief is a serial kidnapper, who takes three boys and holds them captive from June 1st to June 30th of the following year. The June Boys endure thirteen months of being stolen, hidden, observed, and fed before they are released, unharmed, by their masked captor. The Thief is a pro, having eluded authorities for nearly a decade and taken at least twelve boys.
Now Thea Delacroix has reason to believe the Gemini Thief took a thirteenth victim: her cousin, Aulus McClaghen.
But the game changes when one of the kidnapped boys turns up dead. Together with her boyfriend Nick and her best friends, Thea is determined to find the Gemini Thief and the remaining boys before it’s too late. Only she’s beginning to wonder something sinister, something repulsive, something unbelievable, and yet, not impossible:
What if her father is the Gemini Thief?
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Death, suicidal ideation
OPINIONS: Oh, YA, you wonderful genre where teenagers bumbling along using scraps are always the ones that find the culprit before the trained professionals in possession of the full evidence and data, please never change. As it is often the case with these kinds of books, The June Boys requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to make the story work. It is interesting that for me, mysteries are much harder to just take at face value than fantasies, where I don’t have this issue at all.
However, The June Boys turned too much into a locked-house mystery once it became clear that Aulus’s disappearance was connected to the Gemini Thief. Blame was thrown around from character to character, as they were suspected and accused one after the other. Thea, as a main character, frustrated me to no end, as she had a tendency to trust or not trust others on a whim, sometimes changing her mind halfway through a conversation. At times, she would trust a complete stranger with her full life story and theories about the Gemini Thief, only to refuse to share a theory with someone who has proven trustworthy before.
What stuck with me was Aulus’s storyline. His harrowing experiences locked away were hauntingly told through letters written to a figure only named as ‘Elizabeth’. Days passing without food or water led to losing touch with reality and suicidal ideation, descending into desperation.
My main issue with the story was the feeling of ‘Deus ex machina’ that permeated the book. There were plot holes gaping open (why is the FBI spearheading the investigation in Thea’s town, when all the June Boys except Aulus, who might not even be one, have gone missing in a different state, and why is everyone in Thea’s town panicking that their sons might go missing?), incredible coincidences of timing and entirely too much trust put in God. I also had the weird feeling that I had read this book before, but I don’t know why – if you know of a similar book published a few years ago, please let me know!
Overall, I did enjoy reading The June Boys, although I had some issues with the suspension of disbelief. If you’re slightly less knit-picky about your YA mysteries, I do recommend you give it a shot and see for yourself. Just because a book doesn’t work perfectly for me, doesn’t mean it won’t for someone else. You can add The June Boys on Goodreads here, and order a copy from Book Depository here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Courtney “Court” Stevens grew up among rivers, cornfields, churches, and gossip in the small town south. She is a former adjunct professor, youth minister, Olympic torchbearer and bookseller at Parnassus Books. These days she writes coming-of-truth fiction and is the Community Outreach Manager for Warren County Public Library. She has a pet whale named Herman, a bandsaw named Rex, and several novels with her name on the spine. You can find her at the following places: