ghosthermione

(February and) March wrapup

Teal coloured title card reading £March Wrap-Up" with flowery teal and purple ornaments above and below the title

So things got a little bit away from me there…

To give you a bit of context, I’ve been struggling with my health (yes, again, that’s the “chronic” part unfortunately, and it’s making me exhausted, and also depressed, so that’s a double whammy there) while having to restart work, and job searching for something better for both my sanity and my health. Oh, and I moved apartments! So, it’s been busy. And in the middle of all that, I kept thinking I needed to do a February wrapup, until it was mid-March and I thought, well… The same happened with reviews, where I’ve been postponing some so much that I just can’t think what I wanted to say anymore.

So here we are, March has just ended, I’m still in the same job, I’m still exhausted all the time… but on the plus side, I’ve read some cool books! I managed to finish the r/fantasy bingo, as you might have seen earlier this week. I’ve read some of my physical books, too, and a buttload of audiobooks because they help me get through stuff when I otherwise don’t have the spoons to focus.

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an update on r/fantasy bingo

I said last year I’d be doing the r/fantasy bingo, which runs from April to the end of March. I’ve completed it, mostly, except for the SFF-related nonfiction square. I know you can replace one square with any from a previous year but if I’m being honest, I don’t really have the energy to go look for previous ones, and I’d rather just admit I’ve not done the one square. 24 out of 25 prompts feels pretty good if I’m being honest!

I also lost track of which ones I managed in regular or hard mode, and sometimes I have the regular+hero (review) mode. I had a tracker in my planner, with little star stickers, but I switched reading journals and planners with the beginning of 2022 so it’s weird to go back…

It ended up being mostly reading whatever I wanted and then matching it to the prompts. I think if I do it again this year, I’ll try to assign books from my TBR to the card first, then tick them off, it feels more in the spirit of the game.

Let’s have a look at what I read!

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ARC review: Spelunking through Hell, by Seanan Mcguire

So as some of you might know, I’m a big fan of Seanan McGuire. I’ve made it one of my goals this year to reread all of the October Daye series (I’m at the start of book 6 now, thanks largely to audiobooks), but I also enjoyed what I’ve read of the InCryptid series quite a lot, so I jumped on the chance to grab this review copy from netgalley. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Story

Now in trade paperback, the eleventh book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

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My Top Horror Reads

Tile card in teal colour with flowery decorations, reading "top horror reads" in bold letters

I’m the first to say I don’t particularly enjoy horror books. I don’t naturally gravitate towards them. But sometimes you do read a book that stays with you, and horror novels do tend to stay with me. So I thought I’d make a little list with my favourites. I know it’s nowhere near halloween and all that, but I rarely end up reading horror books in October anyway, and just grab them whenever I’m in the right mood.

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Queen of Coin and Whispers

The Story

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I absolutely loved this book! I read the audiobook, and the narrator really made it come to life. I really enjoyed the court intrigues, the plotting, but also the relationship between the main characters. This novel had me at the summary, honestly, because you can’t say queer f/f romance in fantasy setting without me being interested – but it also fully delivers on its promise. 
I especially loved Xania – I was frustrated alongside her, I could relate to her ethical quandaries, and I loved especially the subplot where she went from “all romance novels suck” to “let me just read this all night”, it was very relatable. 
There’s some tough themes of justice, torture, and recovery, that I was not fully expecting, but I really did enjoy where this book went and how it ended. I’m rarely this satisfied so I don’t really have the words. Just go read it!

Get the book!

From the publisher | Amazon UK / US (affiliates) | Gutter Bookshop (Ireland) | B&N | Waterstones

Pemberley: Mr Darcy’s Dragon

The Story

England is overrun by dragons of all shapes and sizes. Most people are blissfully unaware of them and the Pendragon Treaty that keeps the peace between human and dragon kind.  Only those born with preternatural hearing, like Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are able to hear and converse with dragonkind.

When the first firedrake egg laid in a century is stolen from Pemberley, the fragile dragon peace teeters on collapse. Darcy has no choice but to chase down the thief, a journey that leads him to quaint market town of Meryton and fellow Dragon Keeper, Elizabeth Bennet. 

Elizabeth shares a unique bond with dragons, stronger than anything Darcy has ever experienced. More than that, her vast experience and knowledge of dragon lore may be the key to uncovering the lost egg. . But Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy’s arrogance and doesn’t trust him to care properly for a precious baby firedrake. After all, he already lost the egg once. What’s to prevent it from happening again?

Can he win her trust and recover the stolen egg before it hatches and sends England spiraling back into the Dark Ages of Dragon War?

The Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I was given a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for a fair review.

I’ve read somewhere that all stories can be improved with the addition of dragons – even in a Regency setting, why not? And this is exactly what this book does.

I’m a longtime fan of Austen, and Pride and Prejudice especially, so it was fun to see dragons added to that setting. And to spot the quotes and references as they went

Most of the main story arc has been kept–meeting Mr Darcy, the different balls, Mr Wickham, etc.– but this is woven with the existence of dragons, who have their own wishes and rights to order their keepers.

I really loved that Lizzie was given a major role in this dragon business, despite being a woman. Some of the male characters were rather more misogynistic than in the book, and I found that a particularly surprising choice for Darcy, who’s also a rightful classist pr*ck the first time we meet him, perhaps moreso than the original. This has made it hard for me to get interested in his relationship with Lizzie, but he does improve as he learns that *shocker* women can be competent too.

I appreciate the fact that the dragon society is given a lot of complexity, and its own prejudices and issues, especially with the local dragon claiming his right to dictacte who Lizzie marries. It was also great to see Mary given a more interesting role, I always felt like Jane Austen did her an injustice, so it’s good to see that righted. It did not entirely make sense to me that some of the plot points from the original happened here too – like the miscommunication surrounding Wickham. I feel like there should have been shared knowledge making it impossible, and it was a bit annoying, but it did make sense in the long term.

There’s something to be said for the audiobook narrator, who went to great lengths to give characters–and dragons–their own voices. It was only a bit jarring to me that a book I often see as centred around women, and with Lizzie as the main character (though admittedly Darcy gets a good chunk of that too) is narrated by a man. But it was really immersive and I especially loved how the baby dragons sounded.

Overall I quite enjoyed it, I’m only sorry that this ends round the time that Darcy leaves Netherfields/ after the ball while Collins is still there, so even though the dragon story arc is complete, the main story is not, and having read Pride and Prejudice, it leaves me with the feeling that it’s uncomplete. Guess I’ll just have to read the next book!

Get the book!

Audible | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Rise of One

The story

As zombies roamed, the earth went quiet. It is as if every critter knew that the only way to stay safe was to lay silent.

Rise and his coven were running out of fresh blood to feed on. With only one human – albeit pampered beyond belief – at their disposal, there wasn’t enough food to go around. He must find other human survivors if they want to avoid succumbing to the blackness of oblivion.

When the human survivors he rescued were infiltrated by Warwolves, an ancient order of vampire hunters, Rise soon realizes the danger he brought upon his kind. With the full intent to survive, Rise must purge all threats to his vampire race.

The world, although decimated, is ripe for rule. If he wished to set history on a new path, he must triumph — starting with the rise of one individual.

The review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review

 This is one that is going to take me some time to digest.
First I’d like to say that I rarely read vampire books anymore, and zombie ones even less so, but there’s something intriguing about the two mixed together.
I was not entirely convinced at first, especially because I didn’t – still don’t – really know what to think of the main point of view character. And not everything the characters did made sense to me.
But the story threads all seem to pull together in the final act, and suddenly I couldn’t stop turning the page.
It’s inventive, there’s great morally grey characters who, although you may really disagree with them or think they’re assholes, really make you want to know what happens to them next. I’m not sure what I think of Rise, or Cypriot, or even what the hell was going on with Elaine and Marnie, and I feel like the author kept a lot hidden, perhaps for the next volume in the series. At the same time I really enjoyed the characters anyhow – and the fact that it was made clear when Rise was being callous and unaware of his privilege. Although I often find it hard to get interested in a book that’s got an unlikeable POV, and this was no exception – the first half or so was kinda hard for me to get into. If I’m being honest, what I really want next is a book centered on Salter and Annette.
In short: not really my kind of read, but still a good and interesting novel with a lot of potential for the next books. 

Get the book – it’s out today!

Amazon & Kindle |

November 2020 Reads

After trying to read 30 books in 31 days for #OcTBRChallenge, I took somewhat of a break in November. Still there were a few good reads and I’m pretty happy with what I got!

The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman : Third in the Invisible Library series, and still quite funny and enjoyable. I ordered the next one from the library the second I put it down (well, I tried – the library was on lockdown and not taking hold requests…)

Night of the Dragon, by Julie Kagawa: Last of the trilogy and the big disappointment of this month. Too bad because I really enjoyed the first two, but some things in the last one really did not sit well with me so I wouldn’t recommend any of it in the end.

Girl of Hawthorn and Glass, by Adan Jerreat-Poole: A great fairy tale / contemporary fantasy novel that reminded me a lot of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children. Probably my favourite read of the month! (see full review here)

The Four Profound Weaves, by R. B. Lemberg: Long-expected (by me, at least – i had to order it over from the UK), the writing style was not really my, well, style, but I loved the characters and universe. A good queer read.

Murder Most Unladylike, by Robin Stevens: I kept hearing about it, so I just had to see what the fuss was about! Fun middle grade mystery novel featuring girls in a 1930s British school, it was really enjoyable even as someone way out of target range. The fuss is merited!

Thief of Time, by Terry Pratchett: Part of my attempt to finish Discworld at some point in the near future. I still absolutely love Susan, she’s the highlight of the Death books for me. However, there’s some of the humour that’s a bit dated and, well, cringy (all the fake-Chinese-sounding-names-that-are-puns-in-English, I’m looking at you).

Unmasked by the Marquess, by Cat Sebastian: Every time I read a romance, I get more convinced that I need to read more romance. This was no exception. Fun, hot, gripping plot with two bi leads, one of them nonbinary – in a regency setting. What’s not to like?

Verona Comics

The Story

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life. Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them–that is, when they’re even paying attention. They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible . . . unless they manage to keep it a secret. Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I can’t lie, I’m a sucker for Shakespeare rewrites, and I’m a sucker for Romeo and Juliet – but it rarely hits the mark, really. This book, though! I had a blast listening to the audiobook! The voice actors really embody the characters, and Ridley especially. The poor kid has panic attacks and the writer and actor both did a wonderful job portraying that.

There’s a lot in this story about mental health, and family abuse and what it does to you, so it comes with trigger warnings – but the writer really did justice to the topic, showing how it’s really overwhelming sometimes and how those dynamics eat at you – but also how there are roads to recovery and ways to build support systems even if you think there aren’t.

It’s also really, really funny and geeky in the best of ways, and it’s a love letter to independent comicbook stores, and to queer kids. Most of the cast is queer in some way, including the main f/m relationship – which is very unusual and as a bi girl I found it really refreshing. It does a good job of portraying the anxiety that comes with navigating relationship as a bi/pan/…  person too, but remains very positive on that front. I don’t normally read contemporary  YA, but I absolutely loved this one and would absolutely recommend it!

Get the book!

Penguin | B&N | Waterstones

Girl of Hawthorn and Glass

I want to take the time to highlight this book, because I absolutely love it, and at the same time I think to be in the minority opinion. But it was a great queer read for me and I can’t wait for the next one.

Cover of Girl of Hawthorn and Glass by Adan Jerreat-Poole. On a black and dark green background with wreaths of green leaves and red berries, and shards of glass in the corners, the title is written in white across the whole cover as if with a paintbrush

The story

Even teenage assassins have dreams.

Eli isn’t just a teenage girl — she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. Trained to kill with her seven magical blades, Eli is a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts to question everything she was taught about both worlds, the Coven, and her tyrannical witch-mother.

Worried that she’ll be unmade for her mistake, Eli gets caught up with a group of human and witch renegades, and is given the most difficult and dangerous task in the worlds: capture the Heart of the Coven. With the help of two humans, one motorcycle, and a girl who smells like the sea, Eli is going to get answers — and earn her freedom.

The review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I picked this from the library’s ebook collection, knowing nothing about it, because the cover spoke to me. I was hooked from the first page.
At that point I read the summary and it sounded like your regular YA novel so I was a bit disappointed. But that wasn’t really what I got. It’s a brilliant story, very queer (always a nice surprise, I usually *pick* books because they’re queer rather than finding out as I read) with all leads being some flavour of LGBT+ and the main love interest being nonbinary. It’s refreshing.
The worldbuilding was subtle and dreamy. It’s not that straightforward alternate universe that makes perfect logical sense, it’s more like Alice in Wonderland or Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart A Doorway, in that you piece out the logic as you go and not everything makes sense at first, and it’s not the kind of universe that works like our own world, which was refreshing to read too. It has the atmosphere of a fairy tale.
I think one of the main attractions for me was Eli’s experience of herself and her trauma. Our heroine is clearly struggling with who she is as someone who’s only ever been treated as a tool, and not a person, and struggling with the fact that her mother is cruel and abusive while also in other ways protecting her. This was all too relatable.
Overall the writing really hit home, the worldbuilding was really dreamy and I was very much rooting for the main cast. One thing I would say is that sometimes it was not always clear what was going on, in ways that perhaps could’ve been written more clearly without losing the atmosphere. 
Overall however, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I will be looking forward to the second volume!

Get the book

Publisher website | Waterstones | B&N