ARC Review: The Diseased Ones by Danielle Harrington

The Diseased Ones by Danielle Harrington

YA Dystopian

301 pages

Acorn Publishing

Publication Date: 8 February 2020

⭐️⭐️

Synopsis

Life is easy in 2647, unless you’re a Diseased One…

On the morning of her 16th birthday, Hollis Timewire receives the worst possible news. She can’t become a citizen of the world. She’s a Diseased One.

Born with a biomarker that bestows dangerous, brain-altering powers, Hollis is forced to hide underground with other Diseased Ones, who believe that the government falsified history to cover up their genocide.

Now Hollis must discover the truth, and is willing to risk anything, including her powers, to go back home.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Thoughts

So at first glance, this book had so much potential. Sure, the title isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but I’m sure there are plenty of people like me that would go ‘ooh, I wonder what that’s about.’

Basically, Hollis is a normal 16 year old girl, living in a society where people don’t show their emotions. They are forbidden from touching other people. Children are also segregated by gender, with boys and girls educated separately. At age 16, everyone is tested to see if they have the genetic mutation that causes superpowers. Obviously, Hollis has that biomarker, and her powers manifest. The rest of the story follows Hollis as she tries to come to terms with her abilities, as well as learning to control them, after being taken in by ‘The Diseased Ones.’

I’ll say at the outset that the writing was pretty decent. I found Hollis’ first person, present tense, stream-of-consciousness narration kind of grating in the beginning, but you get used to it after a while.

The pacing was a bit off. There were long stretches where we just follow the minutiae of everyday life, and Hollis learning to control her powers. The action only starts to happen in the last 15- 20% of the book.

I also found a lot of the plot fairly predictable, and I felt like I was just waiting for something to happen. And when it did, I wasn’t surprised, or shocked, or… anything really.

Most of the characters were flat, but that tends to be what happens with this type of first person limited narration. Only Hollis gets any development, and I’m not really sure it was of the forward moving kind. She tended to be stubborn and naive, to the point where I wondered if she was being wilfully ignorant, despite all the information she received.

And I don’t even really want to talk about the romance. It’s not that it was bad per se, but she ‘falls in love’ with the first boy she ever touches. And she falls quickly. I’ll let you make your own conclusions about that.

Finally, I felt that the turning point – the event that actually starts the action – was very contrived. The series of random events that lead to the climax were inconsistent with the rest of the plot (and characterisation), and seemed conveniently slung in, in order to drive Hollis to action. And it seemed like a complete over-reaction.

The other little thing that bothered me was a question of logistics. Where on earth did they get all that food while living underground? It’s still bothering me.

Ultimately, I think this could have been a decent book. The ideas were interesting, but I think they weren’t executed as well as they could have been. Sadly, this book just wasn’t for me.

 

March Wrap Up

Hello. I’m not going to say much general stuff in today’s post, because everybody knows we’re in a pandemic and everything sucks. We’re in lockdown in Australia. Everybody is losing the plot etc. etc.

So on to the reading section: I managed to read 15 entire books, and I’ve got two more on the go. I’m feeling pretty accomplished right now. How has your month been?

Challenge Updates

Goodreads Challenge: 39/100

Beat the Backlist Challenge: 22/60

New Release Challenge: 14/60

Finishing the Series Challenge: 5/13

Retellings Reading Challenge: 9/25

Books I read in March

🔙 Backlist 💕 New Release 🌈 ARC ♾ Finishing the Series 📚 Retelling

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow 💕🌈📚 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

The Autobiography of an Indian Princess by Sunity Devee 🔙 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley 🔙 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Daughters of Ys 🌈💕📚 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Les Miserables Graphic Novel 🌈📚 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco 🔙♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco 🔙♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Raelia by Lynette Noni 🔙♾⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman 🔙♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Toll by Neal Shusterman 🔙♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Draekora by Lynette Noni 🔙♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Graevale by Lynette Noni 🔙♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Vardesia by Lynette Noni 🔙♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Raven & the Dove by Kaitlyn Davis 💕🌈📚 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes 💕📚⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Greek Mythology Retellings || Recommendations

I was completely obsessed with retellings last year, and it all started when I read Circe by Madeline Miller, so I thought I’d share some recommendations of Greek mythology retellings I’ve really enjoyed.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What it’s about:

It is, essentially, a retelling of the Iliad from Patroclus’ perspective. It follows the lives of Achilles and Patroclus from late childhood right through to the final stages of the Trojan war.

Why you should read it:

For starters, Miller’s writing is easy to read. She has an amazing ability to pull you into the story and make you care. It explores themes of violence and masculinity, positioning Achilles as the ultimate expression of that masculinity, and Patroclus as a kind of foil to it. It’s also got unstated LGBT representation.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What it’s about:

Like The Song of Achilles, this book is also about The Trojan War. However, this novel is written primarily from the point of view of Briseis, a war prize captured from a neighbouring city state. It’s also intermingled with third person chapters following Achilles and Patroclus.

Why you should read it:

The Silence of the Girls has a lot of heavy tones and themes. It doesn’t flinch from the depiction of genocide and especially the suffering women endured. It’s well written, and you can tell the author has put in the hard yards in terms of research.

Here, the World Entire by Anwen Kya Hayward ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What it’s about:

This is a short novella narrated by Medusa recounting scenes from her life, up until when she meets Perseus.

Why you should read it:

This is a heartbreaking exploration of a woman who became a monster. It very successfully humanises a woman who was raped and victimised, and then was abandoned and maligned by those who should have protected her. It’s a short meditation of key moments of her life, and it reads beautifully, despite the sadness.

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What it’s about:

Dark of the Moon is a YA retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. It’s told through a dual narrative from Theseus and Ariadne’s perspectives.

Why you should read it:

This book was a complete surprise to me. It has no fantastical elements, instead reframing the myth with realistic explanations. It also explores a society where religion is central, and women hold positions of power, which was absolutely fascinating to read. The relationship between Ariadne and Theseus is also much different to the original myths, and I think it was so refreshing to watch their friendship grow.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What’s it about:

It’s a retelling of the story of Hades and Persephone, but with Hindu/Indian mythological twist.

Why you should read it:

Firstly, the writing is gorgeous. Secondly, the world building is fascinating, and it’s completely immersive. Thirdly, the romance is quite swoon worthy. Fourthly… you get the idea. Just give it a go.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What it’s about:

It’s a retelling of The Iliad from the perspectives of dozens of women who were affected by the Trojan War (including goddesses).

Why you should read it:

Absolutely addictive

Strength in surviving

Circe by Madeline Miller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What it’s about:

This is a character study of Circe, the world’s first witch, in her own words.

Why you should read it:

Circe has beautiful writing, which is always a plus. It’s feminist. It rehabilitates a villain, casting her into a different light. It’s also very much a character study, as mentioned above, so while there is magic, and action, it is very reflective, which I loved.

The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What it’s about:

It’s a retelling of the related myths of Oedipus and Antigone, in a dual narrative.

Why you should read it:

For one, the writing is completely engaging. The mystery and suspense was absolutely gripping. It’s also a realistic retelling, so there are no fantasy elements. It’s basically pure historical fiction. The pacing was on point, and the plot was completely satisfying. This book had a little bit of everything. Some mystery, some political intrigue, satisfying plot twists. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

February Wrap Up

I was a bit under the weather earlier this month (it was only a cold) so I’ve been a bit unmotivated when it comes to blogging. So this wrap up is super basic. My apologies. I’ll hopefully be bringing you a higher standard of content again soon.

Books I Read in February 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Language of Cherries by Jenn Marie Hawkins

Pious Fashion.jpg

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress by Elizabeth Bucar

Dark & Deepest Red by Anna Marie McLemore

Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Plantagenet PrincessesThe Author's Checklist.jpg

18 Tiny Deaths by Bruce Goldfarb

Plantagenet Princesses by Douglas Boyd

The Author’s Checklist by Elizabeth K. Kracht

The Starless Sea|| Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Fantasy

498 pages

Publisher: Harvill Secker

Publication Date: 5 November 2019

⭐️⭐️⭐️(⭐️)

Synopsis: 

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues — a bee, a key, and a sword — that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians — it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

My Thoughts: 

I’ve seen this said in a lot of reviews, but I’m going to say it anyway: This book is not going to be for everyone.

I don’t really know what to say about this book. It made me feel awed and sad and annoyed and bored and happy and confused. It isn’t the type of book that really fits into any boxes, which is frustrating, because I love boxes.

But if I have to describe The Starless Sea, I would have to say it’s very conceptual. It isn’t plot-driven, or character-driven. It’s world-driven. That’s probably not actually a thing. But Erin Morgenstern doesn’t seem to care much about the craft of storytelling in any traditional sense. She’s said as much in numerous interviews. For me, it’s sort of like watching an experimental film. Weird, but compelling. It reminds me of how I felt when I watched Donnie Darko.

The thing I loved most about The Starless Sea was all the different stories. They’re so beautiful and whimsical. I could read a whole book of these little fairy-tale-esque vignettes. There were also many beautiful scenes, and I wish I was more of an artist, because I want to paint them all. The imagery was so so vivid.

That being said, there was a lull in the middle where I almost didn’t pick it back up again because I was frustrated that none of the strands seemed to be coming together. And this, my friends, is not a small book. At almost 500 pages, I sort of wanted there to be more of a cohesive plot. And I especially wanted to feel like there was some direction at the halfway mark. It does pick up at around 56%, but god it was a struggle getting there.

I didn’t really care much about the romance. It was very much a case of insta-love. Zachary and Dorian barely spend any time together, and suddenly their love is supposed to be something of epic proportions. I didn’t hate it, but I was ambivalent about it. And that’s almost worse.

I thought that there was very little in the way of depth in most of the characters. The events in the novel don’t really have much impact on them. They seem to be there almost to allow the author to move from one beautiful scene, to the next beautiful scene. I also thought that Zachary was perhaps not the best choice for the main character. He was there primarily to witness the story happening. I think the story was more about Dorian, and we don’t see that much of him really.

As for the ending. Well.

When I first finished The Starless Sea, I was very very confused. Granted, it was 3am at the time. But I’m still confused now. I desperately trawled through Goodreads to find spoilers, hoping someone else would be able to explain just what the hell the answers were to all my questions. Basically every single person who has ever reviewed it seemed to be part of a conspiracy of silence.

I thought that the longer I considered it, the more I would dislike The Starless Sea. But it turns out I kind of appreciate the ambiguity of the plot and the ending. I like that there’s so much room for discussion, and to assign my own meaning to things. It isn’t a traditional method of story telling, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

So I guess the question is, is the Starless Sea worth it? Yes, and no. If you’re looking for a meandering book with beautiful world-building, and whimsical stories within stories, then yes, this could be the book for you. If, however, you like strong characters, a clear plot, and an unambiguous ending, then you should, perhaps, avoid it. This book is in the realm of experimental fiction, and it never gives you a clear answer to any of the questions you’ll have.

 

 

January Wrap Up

General Comments

Yes, I know it’s March, but I’ve been procrastinating.

Key

🔙 Beat the Backlist

♾ Finishing the Series

📚Retellings Reading Challenge

📙 #StartOnYourShelfathon

💕 New Release

🌈 ARC

Books I Read in January

Winterspell by Claire Legrand 🔙📙📚 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Winterspell is a loose retelling of The Nutcracker. It’s probably more accurate to say it served as inspiration. I liked the combination of magic and science/technology. Overall, an enjoyable read.

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel 🔙📙 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This novella was equal parts interesting and awful. Awful, as in upsetting. I can only really say that it is set in the near future, and involves a British citizenship test that goes horribly wrong. It is a thought-provoking meditation on topics that affect us today – citizenship, racism, stereotyping, and bias, just to name a few.

Whisper by Lynette Noni 🔙📙 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really enjoyed this book. I flew the through it. It was sort of a YA sci-fi psychological thriller. The writing was completely addictive.

Weapon by Lynette Noni 🔙📙 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The follow up to Whisper was an action-packed roller coaster. I was pretty happy with how everything wrapped up.

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton 🌈💕📚 💫

I DNFd this very early on. It was a follow up to The Queens of Innis Lear, and a retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry VI.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire 💕♾ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The fifth instalment of the Wayward Children series has the gang visiting the Jack and Jill’s world of The Moors. There was plenty going on, and I loved seeing our characters on another adventure.

Havenfall extract– Sara Holland 🌈💕⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg 🌈💕 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This was a cute fantasy romance between a human and a mysting- kind of akin to a demon. It didn’t completely blow me away, but I enjoyed it all the same.

The Binding by Bridget Collins 🔙📙 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I thought this would be more about the magic of binding, but it’s really more of a slow burn (somewhat depressing) gay romance in an historical England-like setting. It was good, but not great. The hardback cover is bloody gorgeous though.

Australia Day by Stan Grant DNF 52%

 

 

 

 

ARC Review: The Other Bennet Sister|| Janice Hadlow

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Historical Fiction/Romance

480 pages

Publisher: Mantle/ Pan Macmillan Australia

Publication Date: 28 January 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

The Other Bennet Sister is a warm homage to Jane Austen and a delightful story in its own right, following Mary Bennet, who is the middle of five Bennet girls and sadly the plainest of them all.

Not blessed with the same qualities of beauty, wit, charm and liveliness that possess her sisters – Mary, who is prim and pious has no redeeming features, is unloved and seemingly unlovable.

As an introvert in a family of extroverts, Mary is a constant disappointment to her mother who values beauty and marriage above all else. With little in common with her siblings and fearful of her father’s sharp tongue – is it any wonder she turns to books for both company and guidance?

One by one, her sisters marry – some for love and some for a semblance of respectability – but Mary, it seems, is destined to remain single and live out her life at Longbourn, or at least until her father dies and the house is bequeathed to the reviled Mr Collins.

When that fateful day finally comes, Mary slowly discovers that perhaps there is hope for her, after all.

At its heart, The Other Bennet Sister is a life-affirming and heart-
warming tale about a young woman finding her place in the world.
Witty and uplifting, it will make you feel, and cheer for Mary as you never have before.

 

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts: 

I always felt a bit sorry for Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, so I was really excited when I received an ARC for this book via Netgalley. It is, I am pleased to say, pretty much everything I wanted from it.

The Other Bennet Sister started off slow for me. My ARC had the unfortunate problem of removing the combination of the letters fi or fl from every word in which it appeared. Which was rather a lot more than one might think – five, figure, fine, fire, fish, flat, floor, confidence etc. Once I got used to it, I really got into the book.

The first third of book covers Mary’s childhood up to and including most of the events in Pride and Prejudice. For most part I enjoyed this, and Janice Hadlow did wonderful job of portraying Mary in a way that made sense. All those times she says or does something awkward in Pride and Prejudice were explained in a way that made me even more sympathetic toward Mary.

I was very impressed with how nuanced and believable Mary’s personal journey was. At the beginning she lacks self-confidence, but it grows over the course of the book. There was never a lightbulb moment where everything changed, but rather her confidence and identity grew organically with every situation that she faced.

I was also impressed by the detailed world building, and it was clear that the author had taken great pains to research all of the different aspects of the setting, including, but not limited to the environment, the landscape, the society, the fashion, the customs, and the literature.

The later part of The Other Bennet Sister read very much like most historical romances I’ve come across. So that could be taken as a positive or a negative depending on how much you like the sort of tropes you tend to find in them. I was a little underwhelmed by it because other aspects of the novel were so strong.

My main critique was how long the book was. Sometimes scenes dragged a bit, slowing the pacing considerably. But then, I found the same true for Pride & Prejudice, so perhaps it was a stylistic choice.

The only other tiny remark I have is that while almost the entire book was written in third-person limited from Mary’s perspective, every so often there would be a random sentence relating Mrs Gardiner’s thoughts, which always threw me off.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read. I’d recommend it to fans of retellings, historical romances, and lovers of Pride & Prejudice.

About the Author

Janice Hadlow was born in London and currently resides in Edinburgh with her husband and two sons. After studying History at university, Hadlow spent a few years working for the House of Commons before she joined the BBC. With a career in television that spanned nearly 30 years, Hadlow was credited for rejuvenating drama on the BBC, including originally commissioning The Great British Bake Off, now the biggest show on UK television. For her work, Hadlow has received a number of awards, and is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society and King’s College, University of London.

Hadlow is the author of A Royal Experiment, which is a biography of Great Britain’s King George III, originally published in 2014. The Other Bennet Sister is Janice Hadlow’s first novel.

ARC Mini Review: 18 Tiny Deaths|| Bruce Goldfarb

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb

Non-Fiction

336 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: 4 February 2020

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

The story of the Gilded Age Chicago heiress who revolutionized forensic death investigation. As the mother of forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee is the reason why homicide detectives are a thing. She is responsible for the popularity of forensic science in television shows and pop culture. Long overlooked in the history books, this extremely detailed and thoroughly researched biography will at long last tell the story of the life and contributions of this pioneering woman.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts: 

I think I should stop requesting ARCs for non-fiction titles, because I’m always stumped when I have to write a review. But here goes:

I enjoyed most of the book. It was well researched, and a fascinating portrait of a fierce and intelligent woman. For the rest, it was a history of the birth of modern forensics in the United States.

In many instances there was way too much detail and a bunch of extraneous information. Part of one chapter relates the events of a dinner at Frances Glessner Lee’s parents home where they entertained the Flonzaley Quartet. It goes so far as to describe who sat next to whom at the dinner table, which was completely irrelevant to the overall narrative.

In other instances, the narrative veers completely away from Frances Glessner Lee, and it takes some time for it to become apparent how these threads connect back to her.

The narrative a bit dry in places and I found myself skimming parts in the middle section, but ultimately everything is pulled together again in the last third of the book. I’m happy I read 18 Tiny Deaths, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is particularly interested in the history of forensics in the United States.

 

I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

February Book Haul

Below by Alexandria Warwick

In the heart of the frigid North, there lives a demon known as the Face Stealer. Eyes, nose, mouth—nothing and no one is safe. Once he returns to his lair, or wherever it is he dwells, no one ever sees those faces again.

When tragedy strikes, Apaay embarks on a perilous journey to find her sister’s face—yet becomes trapped in a labyrinth ruled by a sinister girl named Yuki. The girl offers Apaay a deal: find her sister’s face hidden within the labyrinth, and she will be set free. But the labyrinth, and those who inhabit it, is not as it seems. Especially Numiak: darkly beautiful, powerful, whose motives are not yet clear.

With time slipping, Apaay is determined to escape the deadly labyrinth with her sister’s face in hand. But in Yuki’s harsh world, Apaay will need all her strength to survive.

Yuki only plays the games she wins.

Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller

Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.

Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.

Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.

But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, Emilie and Annette must work together to help the rebellion end a war that is based on lies.

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley

A must-read for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, transforming The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a powerful tundra-inspired epic.

Before the massacre at Nariin, Enebish was one of the greatest warriors in the Sky King’s Imperial Army: a rare and dangerous Night Spinner, blessed with the ability to control the threads of darkness. Now, she is known as Enebish the Destroyer―a monster and murderer, banished to a monastery for losing control of her power and annihilating a merchant caravan.

Guilt stricken and scarred, Enebish tries to be grateful for her sanctuary, until her adoptive sister, Imperial Army commander Ghoa, returns from the war front with a tantalizing offer. If Enebish can capture the notorious criminal, Temujin, whose band of rebels has been seizing army supply wagons, not only will her crimes be pardoned, she will be reinstated as a warrior.

Enebish eagerly accepts. But as she hunts Temujin across the tundra, she discovers the tides of war have shifted, and the supplies he’s stealing are the only thing keeping thousands of shepherds from starving. Torn between duty and conscience, Enebish must decide whether to put her trust in the charismatic rebel or her beloved sister. No matter who she chooses, an even greater enemy is advancing, ready to bring the empire to its knees.

The Golden Key by Marian Womack

London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.

Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.

But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff.

The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes

Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Maya people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.

The Ninth Sorceress by Bonnie Wynne

In the blackest dungeon of the Clockwork City, a prisoner lies bound in silver shackles. Who is she? And why are the wizards so afraid of her?

Seventeen-year-old Gwyn has no family and no past. Apprenticed to a half-mad herbalist, she travels the snow-blasted High Country, hawking potions in a peddler’s wagon. Her guardian hides her from the world like a dark secret, and she knows better than to push for answers.

But when she discovers she is hunted by the goddess Beheret, Gwyn is drawn into a deep and ancient tale: of chained gods and lost magic, of truths long buried and the rising of a war she never could have imagined.

Wizards and their magic-sniffing hounds pursue her – as does a stranger in a smiling mask, who calls her by an unfamiliar name…

But what really terrify her are the dangerous gifts she’s spent her life suppressing. Now, Gwyn must step out of the shadows and take charge of her destiny – even if the price is her own soul.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Heirs of Fate by Amara Luciano

THREE YOUNG WOMEN. THREE DARK DESTINIES.ONE CHANCE TO CHANGE EVERYTHING.

BRIDE OF DREAMS
In order to escape her mother’s war-torn legacy, Diya must marry. Nevertheless, she is pulled between her own desire to explore the lands beyond her home and her duty to end decades of hostility through an arranged marriage. But when her wedding day brings a curse upon her betrothed, Diya must rescue his soul from the gods—or risk the destruction of their villages.

HUNTRESS AND THE NIGHTINGALE
Once a huntress blessed by the gods, Zahria is now little more than an exalted murderer in service to her queen and lover, seeking solace in wineskins while her queen uses blood magic to torment the desperate people of the kingdom. In this queer, gender-bent reimagining of Snow White and the Huntsman, Zahria is offered a dark choice:

Destroy a cursed forest and sin against gods who have likely abandoned her, or remain forever imprisoned in a land not her own.

STORM MISTRESS
The daughter of a notorious pirate, Jade must hide her bloody past in order to have the future she desires: a home that cannot be destroyed by the cruelty of powerful men. Using clever backdoor deals and her position as a sought after courtesan, she schemes to stop the most brutal kings of the seas from further abusing her island. But when a mysterious storm goddess kills a key patron, Jade’s plans threaten to crumble and she must stay alive long enough to win her island’s game of shadows.

Books I want to Re-Read in 2020

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back.

The third and final book in this series is releasing later this year, and I want to go back to the beginning to relive the whole experience. Esmae is one of my favourite heroines in a long time. And this book has it all. Spaceships, revenge, complicated family dynamics, awesome friendships, and a hint of romance.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart… Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

The world in this was so amazing, and the plot was so intricate and compelling. I want to read it slowly and absorb it more fully before moving on to others in series.

Howl.jpg

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle.

This is probably my favourite book of all time and I haven’t read it for over a year. I miss the characters and the the familiarity of it. It has a fun plot, and a world I can go back to again and again and never get bored.

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

I really loved this when I read it last year and I want to share it, so I’ll be nominating it for book club later this year. It had a bit of everything – mystery, action, drama.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

This was so beautiful, and it’s been so long since I read it. I want to be immersed in the gorgeous setting and stay there forever. It doesn’t hurt that this is a Hades & Persephone retelling with Indian/Hindu inspiration.

Avery by Charlotte McConaghy

The people of Kaya die in pairs. When one lover dies, the other does too. So it has been for thousands of years – until Ava.

For although her bondmate, Avery, has been murdered and Ava’s soul has been torn in two, she is the only one who has ever been strong enough to cling to life. Vowing revenge upon the barbarian queen of Pirenti, Ava’s plan is interrupted when she is instead captured by the deadly prince of her enemies.

I adored this whole series, and I cried in every book because I was so invested in the characters. The plot was exciting. I loved the romance. And the magic system was intriguing.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

I read this about three years ago and I loved it. It really hit all the emotional notes for me, so I’m curious how I’d rate it now that I’ve been reviewing for a couple years. Will I still like it, or will I be super critical?