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ARC Review: The Future Second by Second, by Meridel Newton

The Synopsis

In a new America where civilization as we know it has ended, every hour counts. Everything is ticking along perfectly in the sanctuary community of Osto until a band of raiders arrives intent on violence. Vasha has led her people through the worst the world has to offer for years, but this new threat could destroy her hope for the future. She’s forced to strike a bargain with the leader of the raiders as tensions rise among the survivors and refugees who call Osto home. Old rivalries and prejudices put everything they’ve worked for at risk. But if Vasha plays this right, she just might forge a new future for Osto.

The Future Second by Second is the first in a series of novellas showcasing a different kind of post-apocalyptic world—one dependent on community and cooperative living. Flipping the genre of dystopia on its head, Newton understands the power of hope and collaboration in the face of an uncertain future. 

The Review

I was given this eARC by the publisher, Interstellar Flight Press, through Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. Thanks for the opportunity!

Over the long weekend I was looking for something short enough that I could get through it quickly on the train, and I happened to have this sitting on my TBR shelf. I’m also not an avid ebook reader, as regulars on my blog know, but I found myself turning page after page until there was no more left to read! It’s very short, and I finished it in an afternoon, which is more than I can generally say for ebooks…

I’m also not a big dystopia, or post-apo fan, but the blurb had me intrigued: what I do enjoy quite a lot are stories of hope. And I think this delivered pretty well!

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Review: Good Neighbors, by Stephanie Burgis

Blue title card with a book cover on the left, and the title of the post on the right. 
The book cover on the left is pink-purple with the shadow of a castle and a dead tree in the background. There is a black line for the ground. Above, the word GOOD in Black capital letters with an ornate gate on the first O and a spiderweb on the second O. A man with a hat and a cane stands on the left, a woman in a dress stands on the left, all in black shadows. A raven is perched on the D. Below ground, the word "neighbor" in ornate black letters. 

The title  on the right of the card reads: Review: Good Neighbors by Stephanie Burgis. There are flowery decorations in purple and green tones above and below.

Whoo, it’s been a while since I’ve posted an actual review! One reason is that I’ve read decent stuff, but nothing that truly sparked joy. This book, though! For context, Stephanie ran a giveaway back in… February maybe? Some time ago anyways, for her newsletter subscribers. So I nabbed this for free, and it’s been at the back of my mind since then.

Then over the weekend, I was in the mood for a short and sweet romance, and I thought, let’s do it! Readers, I was not disappointed. My sleep schedule took a hit though, as I absolutely had to finish it, even if it took me to 3am… that’s what bank holidays are for, though, right?

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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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ARC Review: Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar Nelson, by Tara T. Green

I’m still hoping to read more nonfiction books in 2022, so I jumped on the chance to get this one through NetGalley – the biography of a queer, Black woman who was a writer and activist from the late 1800s to the 1930s.

The Book

Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar-Nelson is about the love one Black woman had for her race, of men and women, and, finally, of herself.
Born in New Orleans in 1875 to a mother who was a former slave and a father of questionable identity, Alice Dunbar-Nelson was a pioneering woman who actively addressed racial and gender inequalities as a writer, suffragette, educator, and activist. While in her 20s, she took the national stage from New Orleans as an early Black feminist, active with the Black Club Women’s Movement. From there, she built important relationships with leaders in New York, Wilmington, DE, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. She used her fiction, drama, poetry, and journalism to give voice to immigrants, poor people, women, Black people, and Creoles of color. Despite chronic illnesses, financial instability, and other struggles, her diaries reveal the ways she put herself first for the good of her mind and body, practices that became necessary after surviving an abusive relationship with Paul Laurence Dunbar—the first of three husbands.
Tara T. Green builds on Black feminist, sexuality, historical and cultural studies to construct a biographical study that examines Dunbar-Nelson’s life as a respectable activist-a woman who navigated complex challenges associated with resisting racism and sexism, and who defined her sexual identity and sexual agency within the confines of respectability politics.

The Review

TW: rape, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, sexism, racism.

I know Netgalley insists on giving star ratings, but I find this extremely hard when it comes to a nonfiction book, especially on a subject I’m not familiar with, from sources I’ve not seen. For me, as long as it seems logically and ethically sound, and I’m learning something… Look, it’s a biography, I can’t even say I like Alice, because that isn’t the point.

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Book Review: Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas

I promised a full review of this book… a few months ago when I read it with all the other Lodestar YA novels. I’ve been procrastinating on the delivery, but I still love the book just as much as when I first read it!

Cover of Cemetery Boys: Over a purple background with a giant moon overhead, two brown boys standing back to back. The one looking towards the reader holds a flower in his hand. He looks eager and ready to spring to action. The second boy looks stern. 
There are tombs in the background. Over the two boys, with the moon like a halo, stands a woman's figure in an old timey dress, with a flower crown and a bloody skull for a face.

The Synopsis

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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ARC Review: Seven Mercies, by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

Seven Devils was one of my favourite books of 2021, and I Could Not Wait for the follow up, so I jumped at the chance to review the ARC from Netgalley! I also buddy-read it with Tessa, mostly for support and general yelling “wtf” at each other.

(spoilers for Seven Devils in the following review, but I will not spoil the actual book of course!)

Confession time: this cover is not my favourite. I prefer the space/ship version, but i think they both look weird…

The Synopsis

THE MOST-WANTED REBELS IN THE GALAXY ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN SAVE IT

After an ambush leaves the Novantae resistance in tatters, the survivors scatter across the galaxy. Wanted by two great empires, the bounty on any rebel’s head is enough to make a captor filthy rich. And the Seven Devils? Biggest score of them all.

The Devils take refuge on Fortuna where Ariadne gets a message with unimaginable consequences: the Oracle has gone rogue. In a planned coup against the Empire’s new ruler, the AI has developed a way of mass programming citizens into mindless drones. The Oracle’s demand is simple: it wants its daughter Ariadne back at any cost.

Time for an Impossible to Infiltrate mission: high chance of death, low chance of success. The Devils will have to use their unique skills, no matter the sacrifice, even if that means teaming up with old enemies. Their plan? Get to the heart of the Empire. Destroy the Oracle. Burn it all to the ground.

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I will start by saying I did thoroughly enjoy this book. It took me a bit to get back into it, but after a while I just could. Not. Stop. Reading. I had to know what happened next. There were also a lot of “wtf” revelations and semi cliffhangers that really made the pacing of this book work for me.

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Small reviews: Lodestar Award for Best YA

Part 3 of the hugo series, after novellas and short stories: the Lodestar’s not technically a Hugo but the ballot is the same.

As an aside, I’ve decided I’m not going to review the Novels because I’ve not read about half of them. Harrow the Ninth requires me to reread Gideon because I forgot the important details, and Relentless Moon is a book 3 where I read only book 1. I don’t particularly like Susanna Clarke, and I found Black Sun actually underwhelming. That’s it, that’s the review. I’m currently reading The City We Became, and enjoying it, as I enjoyed Network Effect a few months back. I’ll probably vote but I don’t really have clear enough Opinions on most of these to give you the rundown like I did for the others.

So, the Lodestar. The best of fantasy YA for this year.

They’re all so good! They’re basically all 5 stars or very close to it.

Let me go through them in the order that I read them:

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Review: No Man of Woman Born, by Ana Mardoll

This book was part of my OcTBRChallenge reading list, for one very shameful reason: I got the ARC for it like 2 years ago, before I even HAD a blog, when I was still using tumblr and basically only had the vaguest idea of how NetGalley worked. I downloaded it and then… completely forgot about it! … and then since I’ve been using Netgalley again, the more time passed the more ashamed I was and the least I felt like reading it because of that. (You’re supposed to read ARCs in a timely manner and this is the complete opposite of timely). I’m now mad at myself for waiting this long, because it was a super enjoyable read!

The Blurb

Destiny sees what others don’t.

A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father’s death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he’s ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny.

From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.

The Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I rarely enjoy every story in a collection – I actually tend to find short story collections difficult to rate/review because they’re often unequal. Not so here! Every story is a twist on the gendered prophecy (“no man born of woman can harm Macbeth” type thing) with trans, genderqueer and nonbinary characters who find themselves confronting various evils.

I especially loved the Sleeping Beauty retelling, “Early to Rise”, with a bi-gender (?) character who bargains their way out of their own curse. It was a great twist, and not what I expected even within this specific brand of stories.

King’s Favour, about an evil witch-queen who kills every magic practitioner in her kingdom to avoid being killed by them, was also a highlight for me, in both the concept and the execution of it/the ending.

But really, every one of the short stories was great in its own way, and the last one, Wish-Giver, was so heart-warming, and such a nice way to conclude the collection.

The writing style also had that fairy tale quality to it that worked great with the topic, and I flew through this book in only a few short hours. Definitely recommend, and I’m angry at myself for waiting so long to read it!

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | or listen to it on Scribd (affiliate link)

Review: A Dowry of Blood, by S.T. Gibson

I requested this book as an ARC back when this blog was fairly new – and I was fairly new to Netgalley… so I then did not download it in time, it got archived, and I couldn’t access it anymore. But the concept – brides of Dracula, but make it queer(er), kept intriguing me, so I figured what the hell, and bought it for myself a while back – I just had to know!

Doesn’t it look cool?

The Story

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh my goodness, why did I wait so long to read this??? (I was embarrassed over the whole ARC thing, that is why). But, nevermind that! this book fucking delivers! I had Expectations, not gonna lie, but they were met and exceeded!

It’s a second person story, basically with Constanta recounting her story to her husband (Dracula). So I wasn’t sure I’d get into it? I’m usually weirded out by 2nd person, but I think the fact that it was very clear who it was addressed to, made it more like reading an epistolary novel, than something addressed to “me”. So it actually worked remarkably well.

It’s very much about love – between the different “brides” but also twisted, controlling love, from and for the vampire himself (he’s never named I think, but there are hints that he is really the same Dracula as Bram Stoker’s). For me this was mainly a beautifully written story about escaping controlling, abusive lovers and getting back control of your life. With added queerness and polyamory (of the non-toxic kind also).

The basic plot is (and you’ll know from the start because the heroine comes out and says it on like page 2) “here’s how much of a fucking abusive asshole you were, and here’s why I killed you” and let me tell ya, I am here for queer revenge plots on abusive men. SO HERE! I’m also here for cheating relationships where the women end up with each other and get their revenge on the man eventually.

You can feel the conflicting feelings of Constanta and her fellow “brides” for the man they love, but who’s also hurting them. I’ve had my fair share of psychological abuse, and I work with victims of coercive control, so it truly hit home for me. And I don’t have the words to express how gorgeously written it is!

The Links

Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | Portal Bookshop | or read it on Scribd (affiliate link)

ARC Review: Scales and Sensibility, by Stephanie Burgis

I’ve been following Stephanie for ages on twitter and I keep telling myself I need to read her books – especially the regency ones. So when she tweeted about available ARCs for this one, I jumped on the opportunity. I mean, a Regency book, referencing Austen, but with DRAGONS? Sign me the F up!

Look at her! look at that dragon!

The Story

Sensible, practical Elinor Tregarth really did plan to be the model poor relation when she moved into Hathergill Hall. She certainly never meant to kidnap her awful cousin Penelope’s pet dragon. She never expected to fall in love with the shameless – but surprisingly sweet – fortune hunter who came to court Penelope. And she never dreamed that she would have to enter into an outrageous magical charade to save her younger sisters’ futures.



However, even the most brilliant scholars of 1817 England still haven’t ferreted out all the lurking secrets of rediscovered dragonkind…and even the most sensible of heroines can still make a reckless wish or two when she’s pushed. Now Elinor will have to find out just how rash and resourceful she can be when she sets aside all common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll even be impractical enough to win her own true love and a happily ever after…with the unpredictable and dangerous “help” of the magical creature who has adopted her.

A frothy Regency rom-com full of pet dragons and magical misadventures, Scales and Sensibility is a full-length novel and the first in a new series of standalone romantic comedies.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As usual: I got this advanced copy for free through Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

This was a short and sweet romance novel. Now, I don’t talk about it a lot but I’ve a healthy obsession for Jane Austen’s books. I may or may not own even some obscure adaptations. I’ve watched the 1995 miniseries (you know the one!) way too many times. So you give me a regency romance clearly inspired by the Lady, and I have to get it. And fantasy is also the main genre that I read. Mix the two and I’m one happy reader indeed.

I do have certain expectations when I open a regency novel, but Burgis met and exceeded them all. I like even my historical male love interests to be respectful and not sexist: check. I like my characters witty, and some amount of social commentary: check and check. I like historical accuracy to some extent, and even if dragons make that point kinda moot, I enjoyed the fact that she had small details like, oh, chamberpots hidden behind the scenes for ladies to relieve themselves during parties, to cite only my favourite. It was witty, and fun, and full of horrible people for us and the heroine to make fun of.

The whole concept gave me quite a bit of secondhand embarrassment, to be quite honest. Elinor’s dragon puts her in some embarrassing situations, or she walks right into them. But it was the kind that I was able to laugh at, and not be too embarrassed to continue reading. I also saw the “plot twist” at the end coming, but in a satisfying way. Let us say I was reminded of certain characters in Mansfield Park

The romance itself was very sweet. It was pretty quick, but I’m a person who crushes easily so I can appreciate that in a good story, and it worked with the fast pace of the novel overall. Besides, I really rooted for the two of them in general, against all the awful people around.

Honourable mention goes to Mrs Hathergill, without spoilers I can honestly say I want to be her when I grow up!

Anyways, I could not stop from about halfway through to the end, and I kicked my feet in excitement at the ending, like a little child with a present, so that should tell you how much I liked it. I want more stories like this, fun and light, but with that backdrop of social commentary that makes regency novels so great. And dragons!

The Links

I thought it was out tomorrow/Wednesday until I got an email saying it’s out today? i don’t understand time. Anyways you can order/preorder it below:

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | More links through the author’s website