romance

Small reviews: Mermaids edition

If you remember, back in late April I decided to do a Mermay-challenge where I’d read the mermaid related books I owned. It did not go very well, I read maybe 1 of the books on my TBR and then 1 from the library. But I’ve also read a bit more since then and thought I’d give them a bit of a spotlight.

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Small Reviews: all the good stuff from the past month(s)

I have read so many good books since… June? July? That I didn’t find the time or energy to review. Ideally I’d want to give each of them a big, long, gushing post, but as I keep postponing that and my memory becomes wobbly on the details, I figured it’s better to write SOME review than none at all!

I read upwards of 20 books in July, and I did kind of burn myself out in the process – and then lots of personal, health, and work related things happened so I’ve been putting the blog on an involuntary hiatus, but reading remains my primary hobby and I want to share with you all the good stuff I read in the meantime! I will likely do a few of these instead of cramming them all in the same post.

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Review: Last Night at the Telegraph Club, by Malinda Lo

Finally got around to reading Last Night at the Telegraph Club, after months of wanting to! 1950s historical novels aren’t my main interest, but I do like queer romances, especially historical ones (though I veer closer to the 1800s) so I was intrigued. It’s kinda hard to get around here, but the library is well-stocked so I took advantage!

The Synopsis

A story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

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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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Book Review: Soulstar, by C. L. Polk

This is the last novel in the Kingston Cycle, and I had to wait a little bit for the audiobook to become available, but it was worth the wait. You can see my reviews of Witchmark and Stormsong as well. There will be possible spoilers for the first two books at least, in the review below.

Do the three covers together make a bisexual flag? You bet!

The Synopsis

With Soulstar, C. L. Polk concludes her riveting Kingston Cycle, a whirlwind of magic, politics, romance, and intrigue that began with the World Fantasy Award-winning Witchmark. Assassinations, deadly storms, and long-lost love haunt the pages of this thrilling final volume.

For years, Robin Thorpe has kept her head down, staying among her people in the Riverside neighborhood and hiding the magic that would have her imprisoned by the state. But when Grace Hensley comes knocking on Clan Thorpe’s door, Robin’s days of hiding are at an end. As freed witches flood the streets of Kingston, scrambling to reintegrate with a kingdom that destroyed their lives, Robin begins to plot a course that will ensure a freer, juster Aeland. At the same time, she has to face her long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum twenty years ago.

Can Robin find happiness among the rising tides of revolution? Can Kingston survive the blizzards that threaten, the desperate monarchy, and the birth throes of democracy? Find out as the Kingston Cycle comes to an end.

The Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Trigger warnings: forced institutionalization, forced pregnancy, physical abuse and neglect, executions, police brutality, tear gas, abusive family (non exhaustive list, it’s been a while).

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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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Book review: The Wife in the Attic, by Rose Lerner

I’d had this book recommended to me a few times as a great historical sapphic romance. I had been keeping an eye on it, and by total chance I won the author’s Halloween giveaway. Given a choice of ebook or audio, I of course took the audiobook – and binged it over one weekend! So thank you Rose Lerner for the amazing audiobook! I read it very quickly in November but sadly got behind on writing the review…

The Story

Goldengrove’s towers and twisted chimneys rose at the very edge of the peaceful Weald, a stone’s throw from the poisonous marshes and merciless waters of Rye Bay. Young Tabby Palethorp had been running wild there, ever since her mother grew too ill to leave her room.

I was the perfect choice to give Tabby a good English education: thoroughly respectable and far too plain to tempt her lonely father, Sir Kit, to indiscretion.

I knew better than to trust my new employer with the truth about my past. But knowing better couldn’t stop me from yearning for impossible things: to be Tabby’s mother, Sir Kit’s companion, Goldengrove’s new mistress.

All that belonged to poor Lady Palethorp. Most of all, I burned to finally catch a glimpse of her.

Surely she could tell me who had viciously defaced the exquisite guitar in the music room, why all the doors in the house were locked after dark, and whose footsteps I heard in the night…

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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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

ARC Review: The Merchant and the Rogue, by Sarah M. Eden

Sometimes all you want is a little bit of historical romance. I gotta say I was really into the cover with its silhouettes, it reminded me of the Invisible Library, so I had to see for myself what it was about. It turned out to be part of a series (I feel a bit clueless), but that didn’t really prevent me from enjoying it

The Story

London, 1865

Vera Sorokina loves reading the Penny Dreadfuls and immersing herself in tales of adventure, mystery, and romance. Her own days are filled with the often mundane work of running the book and print shop she owns with her father. The shop offers her freedom and an income, and while she is grateful for the stability it brings to her life, she often feels lonely.

Brogan Donnelly was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in London for several years, where he’s built a career as a penny dreadful writer. He has dedicated himself to the plight of the poor with the help of his sister. But with no one to share his life with, he fears London will never truly feel like home.

Brogan and Vera’s paths cross, and the attraction is both immediate and ill-advised. Vera knows from past experience that writers are never to be trusted, and Brogan has reason to suspect not everything at Vera’s print shop is aboveboard. When a growing criminal enterprise begins targeting their area of London, Brogan and Vera must work together to protect the community they’ve both grown to love. But that means they’ll need to learn to trust each other with dangerous secrets that have followed both of them from their home countries.

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was given an advanced copy through Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

This is basically a cosy romance with a side of adventure, with a side of nested dolls. You get three stories in one, as the main narrative is interspersed with chapters from two penny dreadfuls.

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Review: Hellion’s Waltz, by Olivia Waite

Olivia Waite’s Georgian sapphic romance series, Feminine Pursuits, are one of the very few books that are an instant buy for me. I did this with Waspish Widows, and I did it again with Hellion’s Waltz, and no regrets! I’d do the same for another 10 more in the series.

Louxor likes to check out every book that comes into this house. It’s his now!

The Story

It’s not a crime to steal a heart…

Sophie Roseingrave hates nothing more than a swindler. After her family lost their piano shop to a con man in London, they’re trying to start fresh in a new town. Her father is convinced Carrisford is an upright and honest place, but Sophie is not so sure. She has grave suspicions about silk-weaver Madeline Crewe, whose stunning beauty doesn’t hide the fact that she’s up to something.

All Maddie Crewe needs is one big score, one grand heist to properly fund the weavers’ union forever. She has found her mark in Mr. Giles, a greedy draper, and the entire association of weavers and tailors and clothing merchants has agreed to help her. The very last thing she needs is a small but determined piano-teacher and composer sticking her nose in other people’s business. If Sophie won’t be put off, the only thing to do is to seduce her to the cause.

Will Sophie’s scruples force her to confess the plot before Maddie gets her money? Or will Maddie lose her nerve along with her heart? 

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s really hard for me to review this with more than *incoherent screaming*. I loved it just as much as the previous ones in the series.

This time we’re following a piano teacher and a ribbon maker, and I really enjoy that we keep looking at more trades women were involved in at the time – and again more working class than the first book would’ve let on. We’re once more looking at unions (or lack thereof – I learned that the UK outlawed unions for a few years in the 19th century), and how workers help each other and strive for better rights. In this case, by conning the horrible capitalist man who’s been stealing from them for years. So that part of the plot was tremendously satisfying!

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