romance

Comet’s First Christmas – Delilah Night

Cover from Goodreads

I will be the first to admit, I don’t read a lot of romance. But with the state of the world lately, I’ve been craving something with a guaranteed Happily Ever After. Enter: Romance. I was approached by Delilah Night to review the first novella in her newest series, Comet’s First Christmas, first in her new North Pole Chronicles. And reader, if you’re looking for a sweet seasonal, lesbian romance, you can’t go wrong with Comet’s First Christmas.

I’ve dreamed of this day for years, and now it’s reality. I’ve been called up for the Big Show. Official Pole phone and email, Naughty-or-Nice login, and upgraded I.D. with my new job title—Comet. In three weeks, I’ll be part of the team flying Santa around the world.

In an instant my life goes from peaceful, if boring, to a blizzard of last-minute flight preparations, route planning, and anxiety-triggering stress.

The moment I meet my P.A., Jillian, her beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes are an oasis of calm. But I’ve barely got enough time to wonder if her plump lips taste as sugarplum sweet as they look. Disturbing news has popped up on Santa’s radar.

Someone is turning Santa’s most fervent believers into non-believers overnight. If we can’t find and stop this hacker, there won’t be enough reindeer cutout cookies and hot chocolate in the world to restore balance to Santa’s Naughty-or-Nice list in time for Christmas Eve.

Comet’s First Christmas is a cute workplace romance that takes place at the heart of Christmas – Reindeer and the North Pole. Elves and Christmas cheer about throughout the story, all with interesting twists. The reindeer leading Santa’s sleigh are technologically savvy, dedicated shapeshifters. Rather than settling for the basic elements of Christmas we all expect, Night plays with expectations and turns them on their heads. It’s still as wholesome and kind as you’d want a Christmas story to be, but with details and elements that surprised me and made for a richer, more unique setting.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Romance, without some romance and the love story at the center of Comet’s First Christmas was very sweet. A little insta-love never hurt, especially in a story as short and sweet as this one. Claudia and Jillian are fun characters to get to know and I was definitely rooting for them from the page they met.

It was fun to read something outside of my usual repertoire and the HEA at the end was satisfying and left me feeling pleased and cozy – ready for hot cocoa, sweaters and Christmas jingles.

If you’re in the mood for a cute cozy romance brimming with Christmas Cheer, Comet’s First Christmas should definitely be on your wishlist – whether you’ve been naughty or nice! It’s available now on Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

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Fantasy · YA

The Kingdom of Copper – S. A. Chakraborty

5 Stars

One of the best things I read in 2018 was S. A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass and I’ve been dying for the sequel ever since I finished CoB. I am so delighted to report that the sequel, The Kingdom of Copper is equally amazing.

39988431.jpgNahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family and one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid the unpredictable water spirits have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

It’s hard to discuss how amazing The Kingdom of Copper is without spoiling some of the major plot points, but I’ll do my best.

Where City of Brass was about survival and discovery for Nahri as she learns to navigate the world of the Daeva and djinn, The Kingdom of Copper is heavily focused on what comes next. Nahri has carved out her place as the emir Muntadhir’s wife and the Banu Nahida. But of course, being a pawn in someone else’s game has never been Nahri’s plan. But Nahri isn’t the only one making plans. There are other forces at work in and out of Daevabad and Nahri is at the center of everything whether she likes it or not.

Ali forges a new life for himself in Am Gezira, but a quiet village life isn’t enough to save him from the machinations of Daevabad and the same forces that have swept Nahri up  sweep Ali up in their nets as well.

These political machinations are full of bombshells for both the readers and the main characters. Characters both new and old struggle to make Daevabad a better place, though it’s clear that they disagree on what “better” means. Daevabadis and djinn and shafit alike are all entrenched in centuries of clashing and getting any side to let anything go, to move on or to forgive is a monumental task.

The Kingdom of Copper is packed full of Middle Eastern lore, magic and customs and is as richly described as City of Brass was. Chakraborty has an incredible talent to paint scenes so they feel as though they’re jumping off the page. I feel as if I’m on the streets of Daevabad watching everything unfold around me.

The book ends on a massive cliffhanger. I am beside myself with impatience for the third book in the trilogy.

The Kingdom of Copper is on shelves now and is not to be missed.

Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy · historical fiction · Uncategorized · YA

The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi

4.5 stars

Are you in the mood for a lush, richly imagined, fantastical heist set in historical Paris and featuring a team of talented protagonists with secrets, agendas and well-written depths? If so, have I found the book for you. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi is an absolute delight.

39863498Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

First, can we pause to drool over this gorgeous cover? Because I haven’t stopped drooling since I first laid my eyes on it. The rich green, the lovely, lush texture. /swoon

If Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Robert Bennet Jackson’s Foundryside were tossed in a blender and set in 1889 Paris The Gilded Wolves is what would pour out. I can’t help but compare The Gilded Wolves to Six of Crows because The Gilded Wolves fills the hole in my heart Bardugo left when Six of Crows ended. Severin and his team are not cheap copies, but rather polished contemporaries of Bardugo’s crew. That said, The Gilded Wolves is less dark, less bleak and just as fierce.

The system of technological advancement in The Gilded Wolves is called Forging and is controlled by Houses and is absolutely magical. Chokshi’s mashed up elements I’d never have thought to combine myself. Vines that bloom cocktails and champagne chandeliers. Her imagination is delightful and I loved all the wonderful things she poured onto the page. This system also serves to enable technological advancements that would have been hundreds of years out of place, but necessary to the heist plot in a clever way.

Chokshi also weaves in themes of racism, classism and sexism in interesting ways. The diversity is deftly woven into the motivations and desires of her characters.

The Gilded Wolves is on shelves now and you’ll be missing out if you don’t add it to your TBR yesterday

Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.  

Fantasy · YA

In An Absent Dream – Seanan McGuire Review and *Buddy Read Part 1*

5 stars

Welcome to part one of the fourth buddy read of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter and friend of the blog, Janelle.

In An Absent Dream is the fourth in the Wayward Children series of novellas if you read the books in publication order, and is now the first book chronologically, as it takes place before Down Among The Sticks and Bones. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

38244358This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

For anyone . . .

In An Absent Dream is my new favorite installment in the Wayward Children series.

I identify with Lundy more closely than I have with any other of the Wayward Children so far, and the Goblin Market sounds like a world I could find happiness in. The Goblin Market has rules, and if you follow those rules, you can be at home in the Market. But breaking those rules comes at a very steep cost.

The Goblin Market reminds me a lot of my own relationships with friends, not that we are transactional but that we trade off on doing things for each other. The core of our friendship is that we are both willing to give to the other in roughly equal measure. The internal logic of the Market appeals to my sense of fairness in interactions. Those who do not give fair value are punished.

I understand and empathize with what drives Lundy. While my upbringing was less restrictive than hers, I (an many other avid readers) identified strongly with her escapism through reading. I would have found the door as irresistible as she did.

I also loved the Archivist and Moon. These are the other two main characters in In An Absent Dream that add depth and richness to the Goblin Market and made me feel as though I had fallen through the door behind Lundy.

Once again, Seanan has written the words that speak to hidden parts of my soul.

Read on below for part one of our Buddy Read discussion!

***THERE WILL BE SPOILERS***

Continue reading “In An Absent Dream – Seanan McGuire Review and *Buddy Read Part 1*”

Fantasy

The Winter of the Witch – Katherine Arden

5 Stars

The conclusion to Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy in The Winter of the Witch is stunning and satisfying. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect ending.

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the 36621586Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

The beginning of The Winter of the Witch picks up right where The Girl in the Tower ends and keeps on running. The Winter of the Witch never slows down and as a reader, I could feel Vasya’s energy and weariness and determination seeping off the page.

Katherine Arden has absolutely given new life to these characters from classic Russian folklore. Morozko and Medved and Vasya all leap off the page with flaws and weaknesses and strength and motivation. I was sucked in and captivated from the start.

I will say though, I had to close the book for a moment when a very traumatic scene came up. There’s a pretty heartbreaking character death very early on in the book, and unlike some books, the loss is palpable and resounds throughout the whole book in a way that feels genuine. I never found myself impatient with Vasya’s grief, because I myself felt it along the way. I was so invested in this character that their death hurt.

The ending is the perfect kind of ending for a fairytale like the Winternight Trilogy. It’s exactly how the story needed to end. Arden says in the notes at the back of the book that she has had the ending planned since the beginning, and it certainly feels as though she did. It doesn’t feel rushed or desperate. The ending fits Vasya’s story perfectly.

The Winter of the Witch is on sale now.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy · YA

Down Among The Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire *Buddy Read Part 1*

5 stars

Welcome to part one of the second buddy read of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter and friend of the blog, Janelle.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second in the Wayward Children series of novellas if you read the books in publication order, and the first book chronologically (for now). We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

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Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is Jack and Jill’s story as you’ve never seen it before. It’s a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway – the story before they arrived at Eleanor West’s, and oh is it a heartbreaking story.

The origin story begins with their parents – parents we can all imagine – manicured and polished, more in love with the idea of children than the actual children themselves, and that is of course, the beginning of the end.

Down Among The Sticks and Bones is a lyrical exploration of what happens to two young women when they’re finally given the opportunity to forge their own paths without the weight of parental expectation. A tale of sisters, of labels, of boxes, and the choices children make when offered an escape from the roles they’ve been forced into, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is as delightful and moving as Every Heart a Doorway was.

Seanan McGuire’s prose is wry and melancholy, a tone that pervades the entire book to haunting effect.

Read on below for part one of our Buddy Read discussion!

Continue reading “Down Among The Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire *Buddy Read Part 1*”

Urban Fantasy

Lies Sleeping – Ben Aaronovitch

4 Stars

Lies Sleeping is the 7th novel in Ben Aaronovitch’s stellar Rivers of London series. I was first introduced to this series on my honeymoon, when I stumbled into the fantastic Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego. The bookseller pointed me to three new-to-me series and I’ve been hooked on Rivers of London ever since.

The synopsis below contains some spoilers for previous books, though I did try to edit out some of the biggest bombshells.

Join Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, for a brand new case . . .36534574.jpg

[Spoiler], aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring [Spoiler] to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that [Spoiler], far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch . . .

Lies Sleeping is the conclusion of the first major act in the Rivers of London series, and neatly sets up for the beginning of another act.

Lies Sleeping is not as action packed as previous Rivers of London books and instead focuses more on character growth and connection. This isn’t to say that the stakes aren’t high and there are no magical battles or chases – it’s impossible to leave out those elements completely, but the story finds most of the development in conversations between Peter and other characters, especially those of the demi-monde. Just as Peter says, most of the work in solving a crime is talking to people, and that’s how he spends most of his time in Lies Sleeping. 

Like most RoL novels, there’s a lot of history and architecture packed into the story, but for the first time it felt like too much. The story kind of dragged and meandered and I found myself skimming some of the esoterica rather than raptly absorbing it as context for the larger story.

All that being said, I really enjoyed Lies Sleeping and am already desperate for another installment. I’ll have to tide myself over with the comics in the meantime.

Lies Sleeping hits shelves in the US on November 20.

Thank you to  DAW for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Fantasy · YA

Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire *Buddy Read Part 2*

5 stars

Welcome to part two of the first buddy read of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and a new guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Janelle.

Every Heart a Doorway is the first in the Wayward Children series of novellas if you read the books in publication order, and the third book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.

Head over to Marzie’s Reads for part one of our discussion and  be sure to come back and read part two below!

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Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Every Heart a Doorway is one of those books that crept up on me. The first time I read it, I thought it was nice, a good story, enjoyable enough – but then I kept thinking about it. And finding reasons to recommend it to people. And flinging copies at people. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Every Heart a Doorway is the book that everyone needs.

Starting at about 8th grade I became painfully aware of how dissonant the world is from how I feel the world *should* be. Every Heart a Doorway embraces that feeling fully, acknowledging that for some people, our world just doesn’t fit. Every Heart a Doorway says to us “It’s okay if it doesn’t fit. It’s okay to imagine another place that does fit, and it’s okay to long for that place.” Not only does Every Heart a Doorway acknowledge this, but it also acknowledges the reality of our world by featuring a diverse cast. There are characters of color, old characters, young characters, queer characters, nice characters, mean characters, shy characters, exuberant characters and characters of many different backgrounds. Every Heart a Doorway reflects our world where so many of the books we encounter erase and ignore diversity, or include token characters to tick boxes. In this, it offers people a chance to be seen, to be represented in fiction and that is a powerful thing just by itself. It resonates deeply within us and for me, created a burning longing for a place I can’t ever go….unless I find my door.

There’s a reason Every Heart A Doorway has won just about every literary award it’s eligible for.

If you haven’t read part one of our discussion at Marzie’s Reads, click over and be sure to come back and read part two below!

Continue reading “Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire *Buddy Read Part 2*”

Fantasy

Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

4.5 Stars

Foundryside is a hefty novel that is a satisfying read from beginning to end.

37173847.jpgIn a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett. 

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle. 

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims. 

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them. 

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

I just loved the world building in Foundryside. Wow was it satisfying. There’s a rich, well thought out history, an interesting class system, and I loved the interplay between magic and technology. I love stories where industrialization and magic intertwine and Foundryside is a shining example of how to pull that off well. Belief and words and the collision of the two fuel the world of Foundryside and any lexophile will have a hard time resisting the charm of this magic system.

It was like all the machines and devices that made the world run experienced a fleeting moment of paralyzing self-doubt, and they all whisperedWhat was that? Did you hear that? 

The downside to such a heavily built world and this being the first book in a series, is that it takes a little while to get going. Reasonably, RJB has to spend a good amount of time at the beginning explaining the world to the reader which while necessary, made getting into the book a bit tough. It wasn’t until about the 20% mark that I felt fully up to speed and could begin blazing through the book. I knocked half a star off for that, but this is an otherwise fantastic book.

The characters in Foundryside are also wonderfully fleshed out. Sancia, Gregor and Clef are all well built, interesting characters with pasts, futures, desires and motivations. They’re practically jumping off the page. There’s even a little queer romance on the side in an other-wise romance-plot free book.

This was the first of Robert Jackson Bennett’s books I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to jumping into his Hugo-nominated series City of Stairs. (Which I should have done before the Hugo ballots closed in July. Ooops!)

Foundryside is on sale now and definitely worth picking up.

Thank you to Crown Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Anthology · Fantasy · YA

Toil & Trouble – Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood

5 Stars

It’s a rare thing to come across an anthology where every story is as strong as the last. Toil & Trouble is a witchy YA anthology packed with 15 stories as strong as the young women contained within the pages.

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Cover from Goodreads

Scorn the witch. Fear the witch. Burn the witch.

History is filled with stories of women accused of witchcraft, of fearsome girls with arcane knowledge. Toil & Trouble features fifteen stories of girls embracing their power, reclaiming their destinies and using their magic to create, to curse, to cure—and to kill.

A young witch uses social media to connect with her astrology clients—and with a NASA-loving girl as cute as she is skeptical. A priestess of death investigates a ritualized murder. A bruja who cures lovesickness might need the remedy herself when she falls in love with an altar boy. A theater production is turned upside down by a visiting churel. In Reconstruction-era Texas, a water witch uses her magic to survive the soldiers who have invaded her desert oasis. And in the near future, a group of girls accused of witchcraft must find their collective power in order to destroy their captors.

This collection reveals a universal truth: there’s nothing more powerful than a teenage girl who believes in herself.

Toil & Trouble is an anthology that feels necessary. It fills a gap I didn’t know was there, and it fits in with today’s young adult culture as if it were custom made (which of course it was.) Toil and Trouble is full of stories of different kinds of love, power and women. No two stories are alike, but they’re all cut from the same cloth of strength.

Each story explores a different problem, magical and mundane and through those issues, explores power both figurative and literal and the relationships our protagonists have with those powers. Each story is exquisite.

Even in an anthology as strong as this, I can’t help but have favorites. My two favorites were “Death in the Sawtooths” by Lindsay Smith and “The One Who Stayed” by Nova Ren Suma. Both of these stories spoke to me in different ways.

“Death in the Sawtooths” left me wanting so much more of the universe that Lindsay Smith has introduced. I found the world fascinating.

“The One Who Stayed” was perfection in length and completeness. This story’s strength is in its completeness and in the raw power of women supporting other women.

Toil and Trouble is on sale now and is not to be missed.

Thank you to Harlequin Teen for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.