Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Magician and Fool is available now.
It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then I’ll read a book that leaves me a little bit confused. Magician and Fool was just such a book for me. I am left scratching my head a little at the description of the book vs the book that was written. The blurb seems to revolve the plot around a small aspect of the book, making it sound like a very different tale. I expected more of a fantastical tale with a small sprinkling of historical events or people. Instead, it is a fictional twist on historical characters and events with supernatural elements popping in.
Magician and Fool had a different cadence to its writing, and at times felt a little off-kilter. There was a lot of information to give, and, unfortunately, it led to some info dumping. It had a slow setup and at times I felt my attention wandering. The pacing was a victim of the author’s massive vision. I was surprised by how big her ideas were. There was a lot happening and things were implied that could have easily become separate books in their own right.
I also have zero experience with tarot decks, which means that things that would have emotional resonance for readers who understand that side of things just didn’t have the same effect on me. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Why on earth did you decide to read this book when you are obviously not the intended reader?”, which is a very valid question. I am not the right reader for this book.
Because of this, take my quibbles with a very large grain of salt.
The characters themselves were interesting and the book is definitely not like anything I’ve read before. Alas, this wasn’t a book I enjoyed reading.
Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. TheGolden Spoon will be available on March seventh, 2023.
The Golden Spoon was advertised as a mix of Clue and The Great British Bakeoff. That sounded delicious to me (pun intended) and I couldn’t wait to pick it up. While there was a lot to like, there were also some things that just didn’t work for me.
The story features a group of contestants joining their hosts on a large estate to film a baking competition. Each has their own reason to be there and some have nothing to do with baking. Secrets abound. When a body is discovered, the secrets begin to unravel leaving the reader trying to follow the clues and solve the murder.
The book opened with a press introduction of the contestants on the show, a great way to quickly introduce a group of characters without taking a lot of time to break down each one in exacting detail. This lets the author slowly add details throughout the book which gave me the chance to guess at connections and motivations. It was a clever idea and worked very well.
Once the book itself got going, though, I found myself alternately drawn in and knocked out of the narrative. See, the book is told in first person present tense throughout, which tends to keep me from being too sucked in. I don’t know why it irritates me, but it does. At times this choice added tension, but in other instances, it was distracting. Doubly so because the book also switches back and forth between different points of view. It was never confusing, but it was jarring.
Despite this, the story was engaging and the characters were interesting. I was bummed that the first contestant to get booted from the show left so quickly that they weren’t fully explored but they served brilliantly to drop hints that would otherwise have been given awkwardly. Author Jessa Maxwell was incredibly smart in how she revealed her information. Going back, clues were there but she made the reader hunt to find them. I love being able to go back through a story and see the logic that leads to the conclusion.
The characters were all interesting. I had my favorites, of course. I liked Gerald with his logic and intelligence. I also liked his addition to the story. I also really enjoyed Pradyumna’s character. His reason for being there and his involvement was different from things I’ve found in other mysteries and his reasoning was intriguing. It explained his actions and choices well. There were even a couple of characters that I loved to hate.
The ending felt a little rushed which was a bummer because the author put so much care into building up tension. I did see the whodunnit coming, but I have a knack for doing that. It was in no way broadly broadcast. In fact, it’s that fun combination of a quick, fun read that also requires you to pay attention so you don’t miss something. It was an entertaining read.
I do want to say that there is reference to sexual assault. I only mention this because it is something that I struggle with as a reader. That being said, it isn’t spoken of in extreme detail. It is, however, something that I wish I had been aware of ahead of time. That goes back to the “trigger warning” argument: are they useful and do they take away from the book’s content. This isn’t the right place to discuss my thoughts on that. Suffice it to say, the author was delicate and respectful in her use of that subject.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The Golden Spoon is a fun, creative mystery. Jessa Maxwell is an author to watch.
Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. And Put Away Childish Things will be available on March 28th, 2023.
Have you ever had a dream that slowly shifted into a nightmare? You wake up, heart pounding, sweat on your brow but you can’t remember the exact moment when your dream became something dark and sinister. That’s And Put AwayChildish Things: a dream that becomes a nightmare, one that leaves you unsettled yet engrossed.
As is always the case with Adrian Tchaikovsky, the writing is astounding. He creates, not just a world, but a feeling. Harry Brodie’s discontent with his life becomes the reader’s discontent, his feeling of being trapped, the reader’s. The book begins with a very unhappy Harry working on a kid’s TV show (I immediately pictured Death to Smoochy). He decides to go on one of those interview shows to hopefully remind people he exists and get better acting gigs. Unfortunately for him, the host did her homework and came up with some new information about Harry’s grandmother: the author of the children’s Underhill book series. That information (left unsaid here to avoid spoilers) sends Harry into a tailspin, which gets a whole lot worse when he starts seeing his grandmother’s fantasy creatures hanging out on his doorstep.
This might be where the shift starts. See, these aren’t your usual children’s book creatures. They aren’t even the villains from those worlds. These are horribly, horribly wrong. The author describes them in great detail, bringing life to dilapidated, decaying creatures. My gut reaction was one of horror (and yes, pity) which, of course, seems to be what he was going for. The reader gets taken on a trip both physically and emotionally as Harry (and some companions) enter a world he never believed in, but has always believed in him. And it’s been waiting.
The writing is fantastic, not overly flowery but detailed enough to paint vivid pictures. Interestingly, Harry’s personality is defined just enough to show a desire to feel important, but not much else is explained. This would normally irritate me (I like extremely nuanced characters) but he is more of a thought experiment, a “what if?” than your average character. What if you missed your chance at magic as a child? What if disillusionment and broken expectations with adulthood transfer over to a world where the magic has also broken down and become something less than expected? What if knowledge makes a simple thing simultaneously uglier yet more important?
The ending felt tentative and uncertain, which I thought was perfect for this book. I do wish that it had been a little longer because certain parts felt a little rushed. That being said, And Put Away Childish Things is fascinating, a book that begs to be discussed, reread, and savored.
Thank you to Del Rey for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is available now.
This book is absolutely delightful! If the premise wasn’t enough to interest me (it was), the many glowing reviews I’ve come across would have done the trick. I find myself in the difficult position of trying to find new ways to describe the wonder of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. I don’t know how well I’ll do, but let me crack my knuckles and give it a go.
Emily is a headstrong, socially awkward introvert who is single-mindedly focused on her encyclopaedia. Hers is a little different from the usual book of knowledge: it focuses on faeries. She travels to the small close-knit town of Hrafnsvik in an effort to find information on the Hidden Ones, the last bit of her book. Unfortunately, her lack of people skills leaves her somewhat at odds with the villagers and she struggles to get the information she will need for her study. Equally unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, but she’d never admit it), Emily’s frustrating colleague Wendell Bambleby pops up to irritate- and possibly help- Emily. Soon, Emily’s scholarly distance from all things fae fails her, and she finds herself caught up in faerie mischief, Wendell joining in. Faerie mischief often turns dangerous and such is the case here. The ensuing adventure is enthralling.
Emily is my favorite kind of character! Her flaws are believable and understandable. Her stubbornness comes from a lifetime spent alone and the necessity of being self-sufficient. She isn’t used to friendship or even friendly acquaintances which shows in her awkward and uncomfortable interactions with the villagers. She truly wants to win their trust but it’s a struggle for her. As an introvert myself, I completely understood her tendency to come across as prickly or standoffish. This unintentional defense mechanism was also balanced by something that can happen with introverts: she is fiercely loyal and protective of those who let her in despite her social awkwardness.
Wendell is a different story. He’s lazy yet ridiculously charismatic. He can talk people into all kinds of nonsense, although Emily has become immune (close proximity can do that, I suppose). He is the only one she feels at ease with since they have been colleagues for so long and they happily bicker. This relationship is what elevated the book from fun and unique to fantastic. As much as I love a good adventure, it’s the character dynamics that sell me on a story. Their relationship is never stagnant; instead, it shifts as they spend more time together and understand each other a little better.
The story itself is fantastic, of course. I’m always intrigued by books that contain faeries (I blame the artist Brian Froud for my fascination) and they are written incredibly well here. I would happily stand in line for the encyclopaedia that Emily works on throughout the book. Changelings, brownies, a faery high court, even the trees drip with magic and that lovely combination of real-life legend and fantasy book creation.
The danger of being drawn into a glittering faery world isn’t confined to the characters in the book. I was also sucked in. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries trapped me with otherworldly ease, leaving me desperate to see what happens next. This book is magic.
Two reviewers who made me rush to pick up the book:
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Magician’s Daughter will be available on February 28, 2023.
The Magician’s Daughter invited me into a world of magic and mysteries, holding me captive until I finished the last word. It was gorgeously written, each word meticulously placed to build an engrossing narrative. The story of Biddy’s desperate venture was a breathtaking one.
Biddy grew up on Hy-Brasil with her magic-wielding caretaker, Rowan, and his familiar. Hy-Brasil is a place of magic, only visible every ten years. Even then, it’s only visible to a select few. Biddy has love, attention, and freedom across the island, but has been asked never to leave. Rowan leaves some nights, flying as a raven on secret errands. He is always back before dawn- until one day, he isn’t. Suddenly, Biddy is included in the reasons for his flights, told why she can’t leave, and is warned of the danger hunting them. From resenting being left out, Biddy is thrust into something darker and wilder than she could have ever imagined. Soon, she must choose between what is safe and what is right.
I loved the way the plot moved! Time was given to establishing the rules of the world so that when those rules were shattered, it meant something. The motivations of the characters made perfect sense (even when they made less-than-savory choices), and there were twists and turns that I didn’t see coming which left me desperate to see what happened next.
The Magician’s Daughter has a smaller cast of characters, but each one is given the attention it deserves. Every one of them was fascinating and well-written, adding new layers to the story. Hutchinson, Rowan’s rabbit familiar, burrowed his way into my heart with his combination of protectiveness and a rather cranky attitude. Morgaine was a compelling conundrum and it took until the end of the book for me to decide whose side she was really on. Even the (very evil) villain was complex enough to be more than an “I’m evil just because” sort of character. And wow, he gave me the shivers!
The narrative flows like a river. First, it is calm with slight ripples under the surface, but by the end of the book, a roaring narrative has taken over, rushing the reader along at a breathtaking pace. I raced through The Magician’s Daughter and, even though the ending was perfect, I was sad to see my time with the characters and world come to an end. If that isn’t the sign of an amazing book, I don’t know what is.
There was magic in the plot, but it also dripped from every word. The writing was absolutely phenomenal. The Magician’s Daughter is a book to get lost in, one that you’ll find yourself thinking of long after you’ve finished the last page.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Little Vampire Women is available now.
I’m afraid this review will be a little on the shorter side because I find myself in the strange position of feeling as though I’m almost having to review the original book. I’ve read several of these monster mash-up books (my favorite being Grave Expectations by Charles Dickens and Sherri Browning Erwin being my favorite) and this is the first one that felt so incredibly similar to its source material.
Everyone knows the plot of Little Women. But what if Marmee and Co. were vampires? That should change things more than it really did, which is where I’m getting a little stymied. While the idea is a fun and clever one, the main storyline changed very little, instead having small asides that added a vampiric touch. I would have loved to see the author do more than add in an extra sentence here and there.
The extra bits added served to twist the story ever-so-slightly. For example, the family that the Marches bring Christmas food to are human, so there are an added few sentences about the March women needing to suggest that their gift of raw animals be made into a stew. See what I mean about small bits being added? On a few occasions, it was entertaining, but at other times it threw the pacing off a little.
I feel that the author would have done much better writing her own original book instead of going for a mash-up. Then she would not have had such restrictions on her creativity. She has written several other books and I am 100% sure that her wholly original books are much much better. As it was, I found myself disappointed in Little Vampire Women.
Thank you to Angry Robot and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. SilverQueendom is available now.
Give me rogues aplenty and let the heist begin! Silver Queendom was chock full of shenanigans, plan Bs (through Z), and memorable ne’er do wells. Desperation can cause some opportunistic individuals to go looking for trouble and the characters in this book didn’t seem all that great at avoiding it in the first place. What they lacked in self-preservational skills they more than made up for with sheer moxie.
The book drops you right in the middle of a heist (that is not at all going as planned) and introduces the characters as they play their particular roles. There’s Darin, owner of the Red Rooster Inn and the de-facto leader of the crew. There’s also Kat, who has a big heart for those in need and a laughably small amount of brewing skill, Tom (the meat shield; every good crew needs one), and sophisticated yet broke Evie. In fact, it’s the group’s constant issue with debt that leads them on a dangerous gambit: the theft of Imperial Dream Wine.
Silver Queendom was fun. It was fast-paced and easy to follow. It wasn’t a complicated epic, rather opting for mischief and action aplenty. I was never floored by a shocking twist, but I was entertained throughout the book. I feel like there were some things that could have been more fully explored, but the plot made sense and the pacing was good.
One of the things I wish could have been explained a little better was the use of magic. Darin was a metallurgist. The idea was cool but never seemed to be fully developed. I would have liked a bit more in that respect. I feel like I missed something or just didn’t grasp it fully.
The world was well-developed but vague in some ways. I believe this was done on purpose. The characters themselves were the focus of the book, with the rest existing as a backdrop to these fascinating people. The story was told from multiple points of view, giving the reader a chance to get to know each character better. This came in handy with the heists themselves because I felt like I was getting to see how each person functioned both in terms of character dynamic and heistening (if that’s not a word, it is now).
The fact that this was a series of misadventures as opposed to just one heist made me oh-so-happy. These poor rogues never could get ahead. Boo for them but yay for the readers. I enjoyed Silver Queendom immensely.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Woman in the Library is available now.
The thing that grabbed me and immediately interested me in reading this book was that it featured the word “library” in the title. That’s it. If there is an angle that features words, libraries, or bookstores, I’ll be almost immediately intrigued. The writing and storyline kept me reading, happily drawn into a fun mystery involving four new-found friends.
Author Sulari Gentill plays off the new-friend dynamic incredibly well. When people first hit it off, it’s easier to ignore (or not even notice) things about the other person which will either begin to annoy over time or, in the worst of cases, turn out to be major red flags. These four people met in a library reading room, brought together by a stressful event. That’s enough to form the beginnings of friendship right there, although of course someone is not who they seem.
The book’s storytelling tricks were my favorite thing about it. The Woman in the Library features an author named Hannah Tigone who is writing a novel that starts in a library. The novel is about a writer (named Freddie) who gets sucked into a murder while researching for her own book. It sounds a lot more confusing than it is. For the purpose of this review, I’ll refer to the character writing the book about the writer as the author, and the character who happens to be in the library at the time of a murder as the writer. It’s actually a ton of fun, despite my lousy attempt to explain it.
While the writer in the book builds new friendships, the author begins to be disturbed by the unhealthy relationship forming with her Beta reader. Now, that was a character that was easy to hate. Holy cow, everything he “wrote” in his letters to Hannah was absolutely awful. That it degenerated in nature from horrible to dangerous was an unexpected progression that made a sick sort of sense. The continuation of the story wavered from distracting to adding an extra layer of suspense. I’m still not sure how I feel about that whole thing, although I can’t deny that it ratcheted up the tension level of The Woman in the Library.
There were four main characters in the author’s book: the writer, Freddie, in the U.S. from Australia with the purpose of working on her own book; Whit, the laze-about whose aspirations don’t match those of his overbearing mother; Marigold, a tattooed free spirit who is also something of a genius (according to her); and Cain, an enigma who has written a bestselling book of his own. One of them is also a coldblooded killer, of course. It’s up to Freddie to figure out who.
I will admit that I figured out the whodunnit before it was revealed, although the motive escaped me. The characters were all fun to read, although I had a soft spot for nosy, stalkerish Marigold. The book raised the stakes as it went along and by the end it was hurtling at breakneck speed toward its conclusion. I liked the way the book’s pacing sped up as the mystery got closer to being solved.
There was some brief mention of attempted sexual assault, which I feel I should warn readers about. It was not detailed, but it’s always best (in my opinion) to be aware if something like that will pop up. I’m sensitive to that subject and it was vague and short enough that I was able to skip over the paragraph or so mentioning it without any issue. So, there’s that.
The Woman in the Library was a highly entertaining mystery filled with twists and unexpected reveals. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend it to people who want a fun suspense-ridden novel.
“There are timeless stories, powerful enough to have survived through the ages. Read lots of books like these- they’ll be like friends to you. They’ll inspire and support you.”
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Cat Who Saved Books is available now.
Sometimes a book is a contradiction of itself. Such is the case with The Cat Who Saved Books. It is simple yet profound. It starts with a death but teems with a life all its own. It’s short but full all the same. I suppose you could say that I loved it.
Rintaro lived with his grandfather, who owned a used bookstore. When his grandfather dies, Rintaro isn’t just losing the most important person in the world to him, he’s afraid that he’s also losing his grandfather’s store and his refuge. Rintaro is lost and alone- until a tabby cat named Tiger shows up and asks Rintaro to help him on an important mission. They must save books that are being destroyed or ignored. What follows is more than a journey to save books. It’s a journey of self-discovery. And it is wonderful.
For some reason, I expected this to be a book that took place in a long ago setting, not a contemporary one. Once I adjusted my expectations, I found that this is better. Rinataro is relatable and I couldn’t help but want to heal the hurt in his heart that radiates from page one (despite his prickly way of handling it). In fact, while there weren’t many characters, they were each distinctive in their own way. I loved getting to know them.
The quests were unique and so creative. They were vividly described, and it was easy to sink into the story. The book has a special cadence to it, and if you look closely, you can see the Hero’s Journey told in a new and heartwarming way.
For those of us who see books as more than just words on paper, The Cat Who Saved Books is a must-read.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Tomes, Scones and Crones is available now.
This is a cozy mystery with a supernatural twist. What drew me in, of course, was the bookstore setting. Unfortunately, while I did find parts of the book entertaining, it didn’t quite keep my attention throughout.
While I thought Jacqueline was a good main character, I really didn’t care for the way her character was introduced. Instead of showing the reader who she is we are told, unfortunately, with a quick “about the character” sort of introduction at the beginning, I wasn’t given the chance to really appreciate who she was before being given her history and as a result I was not overly invested. However, once things got going, that eased up a little and I was able to just get to know an interesting character. I did like that she was a little older, instead of being a twenty-something. It allowed her character to develop in ways that are outside what I have seen in many books recently.
The kitties were snarktastic (as most cats are), but the other characters seemed a little disjointed to me. My favorite part of the book was the bookstore. In fact, I really could take or leave the rest of the book. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just wasn’t for me. It felt a little too fluffy, if that makes sense. I think a nice, cozy mystery has a ton of potential (especially in a year like this one), but something just seemed to be missing. I can’t put my finger on what. Perhaps I wanted a little bit more substance to my fluff.
At the end of the day, Tomes, Scones and Crones was rather forgettable. While it wasn’t for me, it was cute and would be a good rainy day read for readers who like a very sweet, lighthearted book.