Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Review: The Wolf & The Woodsman by Ava Reid

The Wolf & The Woodsman by Ava Reid
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Rating: 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

What I Liked:

You know that feeling when you see a book's cover, read the synopsis, and just KNOW that this will be something you'll love? I got that feeling when I heard about this book a year ago, and that feeling did not lead my astray. This story was absolutely exquisite. 

The Wolf & The Woodsman is an adult fantasy novel based on Jewish folklore and Hungarian history. There are many major themes in this book that the author explored, including cultural genocide, antisemitism, and ethnic cleansing. I want to note that I do not have Hungarian heritage and I am not Jewish, so I will not have the best perspective on certain aspects of the book. Nevertheless, I know how hard the author worked to put every ounce of herself, her culture, her religion, and her history into this book. As an "outsider", I can appreciate how well-written the story is, how fantastic the world-building is, and how powerful the messages are.

Please note: there is body horror, abuse by elders, mutilation, torture, and other potential triggers in this story. 

This is the story of Évike, a woman without power in her small pagan village. She is despised by many in her village, and abused for her powerlessness, as well as her mixed heritage (her father is a Yehuli man). When the Woodsmen arrive to take another pagan girl with seer power, the villagers conspire to send Évike. Évike is taken to the nation's capital, where she must serve the king and his treasonous son. Gáspár, one of the Woodsmen charged with bringing Évike to the king, is the king's other son. He knows what it is like to be despised for who he is. Together, Évike and Gáspár must work together to to stop Gáspár's traitorous brother from overthrowing the king, slaughtering the Yehuli, and changing the landscape and the history of the nation forever.

There is so much more to this story than what I briefly summarized. The magic system, the politics, the scheming, the romance... this standalone novel is filled with just about everything that makes a fantasy novel amazing. But it's even more than a "usual fantasy novel" - Reid makes this novel her own by weaving Jewish history, lore, and life into this book. This book parallels Hungarian history in the Yehuli's imminent expulsion from the capital, the blatant discrimination, the way they are used and discarded by the government. I need to reread this novel to analyze and engulf myself in the political machinations and the Yehuli trials - Reid has written these aspects so, so well, and with such power and purpose.

I do want to talk about the romance - I love a good slowburn, hate to love romance. Évike is a feisty, hurt, tough young woman, and Gáspár is a quiet, hurt, tough young man. They should be on opposite sides of the war, with Évike being a pagan "wolf-girl" of mixed heritage, and Gáspár being a royal prince of mixed heritage. But they are like fire and ice or a moth and a flame - they are magnetic, and I love this pairing. I love Évike's headstrong quality and Gáspár's quiet, less assertive nature. Such a sweet, yet volatile romance!

Évike isn't just a strong young woman - she's a fighter and a survivor. She has been abused by her village and her Yehuli family doesn't know she exists. She's tired, hurt, and broken down, but she is a fighter. She takes matters into her own hands - particularly her "powerlessness". Here is where the body horror aspect comes into play - I won't say much more than that. Évike wasn't just on a journey to the capital, or a journey to find this fantastical magical creature - she was on a journey that led to her discovering more about her Yehuli heritage. I really appreciate Reid's commentary on heritage, and the diaspora.

This novel is a standalone, and the story feels very full and complete by the time I reached the end. I would love to read more books in this universe, but I feel as though Évike and Gáspár's "chapter" is over. The ending is one that I enjoyed - no spoilers, of course! The author wraps up all the loose ends but also leaves the future slightly open... I wouldn't mind seeing Évike and Gáspár make cameo appearances in companion novels set within the same universe. If that is something that the author is considering!

I truly enjoyed this wonderful, powerful, thought-provoking novel. The cover is gorgeous and so is the beautiful story!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything I did not like! Perhaps that the story pacing dragged a little in the middle, but I also read this book over several days, so keep that in mind. The pacing overall is very engaging, but I hit a snag in the middle. But things pick up quickly in the capital! You'll have to read the book to know what I mean. 

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy novels. This is NOT a fairy tale retelling - don't be fooled. This IS an adult fiction novel though, so don't confuse this book with Young Adult (YA) novels. The book can be read by YA readers, but the content of the book is certainly meant for adults. (Graphic violence, sexual content, etc.) 


5 stars. Thank you so much to the publishing team for letting me read this book ahead of the publication. I have been lending my early copy to friends and family and screaming about this book on social media. I have been struggling to read anything in the last year (oh, pandemic), but this book was exactly what I needed - immersive, intriguing, and thought-provoking. I can't wait to read more by Ava Reid!

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Monday, March 1, 2021

Unboxing: FairyLoot Deluxe Set of The Ember Quartet by Sabaa Tahir

 Hello, bibliovories! I'm back with an unboxing post! In the last year and a half, I've subscribed to three book subscription boxes - Illumicrate, The Bookish Box, and FairyLoot. One day I'll write a whole post on each company and what I like and dislike about them. Maybe I'll start posting unboxings of the monthly boxes for each company. But today, I'd like to share my unboxing of the first special edition set of books that I've bought from one of the many book subscription boxes - the signed Ember Quartet by Sabaa Tahir, created and sold by FairyLoot!

Here's the box!

Time to open...

What's the print on the top?

This is beautiful! Gold foil is one of my favorite designs. And all of the major characters of the book are here. I love that Elias and Laia are prominent.

Here is the set! Orange, blue, green, and purple. I love the animal symbols are the bottom of each spine.

Pretty sprayed spines!

More pretty spines!

The gorgeous stenciled design! So beautiful!

You thought I was done? Above is the hidden cover of Ember.

And Torch...

How about Reaper...

And Sky!

Did I mention that the books are signed?

And altogether:

And that's the set! It was a pretty penny, but absolutely worth it. I love this series so much, and I love this deluxe exclusive set so much. Many thanks to FairyLoot and Sabaa Tahir, for making this set available to readers for purchase!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Review: Namesake by Adrienne Young

Namesake by Adrienne Young
Book One of the Fable series
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Filled with action, emotion, and lyrical writing, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Namesake, the final book in the captivating Fable duology.

What I Liked:

I read Fable in early 2020, and I knew it would be a hit. I loved the book; it pulled me right out of the reading slump that I had been in, since my father passed away in 2019. Fable hit me at the right time. I received Namesake to read in Fall 2020 and I dove right back into the intriguing, mysterious world of the Narrows. Namesake is the conclusion to the Fable duology, and it's easily one of the best conclusion novels I've ever read.

Namesake picks up pretty much right where Fable left off, which, if you remember where Fable left off, you remember being pretty upset. (I was, anyway.) I won't state too much about that, since Fable published only six months ago, and I will try not to spoil anything regarding Namesake as well. 

The world of Fable becomes so much larger in this book. Adrienne Young expands the world, the schemes, the politics, the characters. A wider cast of characters is brought into play, and even more political machinations, deals, risks, and revelations. Some characters who were briefly mentioned in Fable become critical players in Namesake. No specifics, but believe me, the plot thickens! I love the Pirates of the Caribbean vibe of this series. That alone was enough to make me pick up Fable, but the excellent writing, fascinating characters, and slow-burn, tension-filled romance made me fall in love with the books.

One thing I will say vaguely is that a giant Easter egg in Fable manifests in Namesake. I was pretty sure I knew what the Easter egg was when I was reading Fable, but I wasn't quite right. It's not exactly what you'd expect. Adrienne Young is so sneaky, she had us thinking one thing, when in fact it was a completely different thing! I have listened to so many of her virtual tour events and Instagram live events, and she was SO sneaky about this Easter egg. Several months after reading Namesake (I'm writing this review in February 2021), I'm still delighted by the Easter egg.

Let's talk about the romance! Fable and West are such an adorable, heartbreakingly beautiful pair. I love the romance of this book, and series. This series - actually, this book (Namesake) has the most romance on page of any of Young's books. I love the slow-burn in Fable, and the pure yearning in Namesake. The romance of this series is one of my all-time favorites of the Young Adult books I've read.

Other relationships are just as important as the romance between Fable and West; for example, Fable's relationship with her father, Saint. But also, Fable's relationship with her mother, Isolde. I can't say anything more about that but... while Fable (book one) was more so about Fable and her father, Namesake is about Fable and her mother. In a way, but not in the way you think. You'll see!

I truly love the characters that Adrienne Young has written. Fable, a smart, brave young woman. West, a selfless, mysterious man with a heart of gold. Saint, a trickster father who keeps his cards close. And the crew of the Marigold, who is the family that Fable never knew she needed. I love the characters of this book, even the "villains", who have such compelling backstories.

Tropes: slow-burn romance, a hint of enemies-to-lovers romance (kind of? between West and Fable), found family, "chosen one"... kind of. You'll see what I mean.

I won't say anything else because I don't want to spoil the book, but I will say that the book ended really well. The series wraps up wonderfully. Adrienne Young proves that you don't need mass chaos and bloodshed to end a series (I'm looking at you, Game of Thrones). I'm not saying there is NO violence at the end, but, the ending is really good. My heart was full, after reading this book. This book is absolutely worth the (short) wait, the marathon binge-read, or however you'll read this series.  

What I Did Not Like:

I have no complaints! This book was such an excellent follow-up to Fable, and an amazing conclusion. I feel like I can't wait always say that about sequels or conclusion novels. 

Would I Recommend It:

If you read Fable, you HAVE to finish this series. Namesake is so easy to read - I finished it quickly, once I started getting into the story. I didn't want to put the book down. This series is such a riveting fantasy series, and it has good crossover appeal to young adult readers and adults. It's a favorite for sure - the series is a favorite in general!


5 stars. There was no doubt in my mind that Namesake would be just as incredible as Fable, if not more. Adrienne Young has not disappointed me yet; I can't wait to see what she publishes next!

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Read my review of Fable HERE!

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Review: National Geographic Almanac 2021

Review: National Geographic Almanac 2021
Publisher: National Geographic
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Rating: 5 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

The essential annual for the 21st century, this high-energy almanac is packed with facts, photos, infographics, time lines, and maps--the perfect stocking stuffer and book to browse all year long. A guide to the world like no other, this vivid and comprehensive book offers the best of National Geographic and more: science, nature, history, world cultures, geography, and the environment, illustrated with amazing photography, fascinating infographics, and maps created by expert cartographers. Highlights this year include the James Webb telescope, launching in 2021; a brand-new wildflower guide; a guided tour of the moons of our solar system; a beautiful infographic on jellyfish; and a feature on lithium, central to the work of recent Nobel prize-winning chemistry. Divided into lively chapters including Exploration & Adventure, Life on Earth, and The Science of Us, this year's almanac features top photos from National Geographic's celebrated Instagram account and geniuses past and present including Jane Goodall, Amelia Earhart, and acclaimed conservationist Kris Tompkins, dedicated to preserving much of Patagonia. With new discoveries on every page, this cutting-edge book--called a "category buster" by Booklist--brings you, as Publishers Weekly puts it, "all the things that National Geographic does best."

What I Liked:

This review is a little different, because I'm reviewing a nonfiction novel, instead of a fiction novel (which is my usual). Since I was a little girl in elementary school, I have loved checking out the new National Geographic Almanacs, year after year. I had the opportunity to read and review the 2021 almanac early, and I'm pleased to say that the almanac is just as wonderful and informative as ever (if not more so).

It's so important that people learn more about how the world works, both past and present. National Geographic always does an excellent job of producing a mix of good information that shares more about the world's past, present, and future. I'm a huge environmental nerd so I always go straight for the sections about environmental science. I think everyone should invest a little time to read about a current world issue, whether environmental or otherwise. 

I was introduced to National Geographic when I was a child, and these almanacs certainly are extremely useful for children. There are fun fact quizzes, and plenty of visuals besides the gorgeous photographs. But these almanacs are so valuable to adults and children alike. The text is suitable for any range, so it's perfect for a parent reading to their child, or a curious child (like I was!), or an adult looking for some light reading. There are so many different sections and it's nice that you don't have to commit to reading the entire book all at once (like you would a fiction novel).

I'm not going to go through every section, but I wanted to touch on my favorites. I always love reading through any environmental section, particularly the ones on ocean life. "Of the Sea" is the section on ocean life in this particular almanac, and it has a great subsection on octopus. Another subsection that I found really cool is "Disappearing Languages". I have been learning a new language during this COVID-19 induced quarantine, and I loved reading about different languages that are fading. The world is going to lose about 7000 languages by 2100. Isn't that terrible? The whole section on culture is pretty cool.

I highly recommend checking out this new National Geographic Almanac, or any of the past ones. The book is filled with beautiful photography, interesting facts, and a lot of priceless knowledge that expands one's world view. This is a great coffee table book, but more importantly, it's a great source of knowledge for anyone around the world.

What I Did Not Like:

There is nothing to hate about this almanac! Read it!

Would I Recommend It:

Anyone and everyone should pick up a National Geographic almanac in their lifetime. I was introduced to these almanacs at a young age, but I encourage anyone, whether young or old, to check out the books. They're a great resource to have, with such varying and diverse content. You won't b disappointed!


5 stars. I personally want to be better about reading nonfiction books, and I can always count on these almanacs. National Geographic is a fount of knowledge, full of researched niche topics, incredible diversity, and stunning photography. I think everyone should read National Geographic's work, particularly the yearly almanacs.

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Blog Tour: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Happy Monday! I'm back with a blog tour post about an exciting new Young Adult debut novel - A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe. I loooooove historical fiction, and this book caught my eye right away. A Golden Fury is available TOMORROW - check it out below!

About the Book:

A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe
Publisher: Wednesday Books:
Publication Date: October 13, 2020

Official Summary:

Set in eighteenth century England, Samantha Cohoe’s debut novel, A GOLDEN FURY (Wednesday Books; October 13, 2020), follows a young alchemist as she tries to save the people she loves from the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone. The streets of London and Oxford come to life as this historical fantasy unravels. Weaving together an alluring story of magic and danger, Samantha’s debut has her heroine making messy decisions as she toes the line between good and evil while it becomes blurred.

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

A GOLDEN FURY and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository | Macmillan

About the Author:

Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

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Early Praise for A Golden Fury:

“Sharply written with a crackling, compassionately determined heroine, A Golden Fury is a vivid ride through eighteenth century Europe with darkness and dread creeping at its corners. Utterly enchanting.”

- Emily A. Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

"An engaging concoction of fantasy, romance, and historical fiction." - Booklist

"Cohoe situates the supernatural among the historical, referencing the French Revolution and the Enlightenment while...keeping a sense of urgency as Thea struggles with the magical, demonic pull of the Stone."

- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The attention to detail in the story is excellent. Thea herself is a confident lead with a strong voice. A solid fantasy to flesh out the world of alchemy that most readers know only from 'Harry Potter.'" - School Library Journal

“Cohoe transmutes the legend of the Philosopher's Stone into a dark, intoxicating tale of ambition, obsession, and sacrifice. Prepare for a magic that will consume you.”

- Rosamund Hodge, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

“Steeped in mystery and magic, Samantha Cohoe’s A Golden Fury immerses readers in beautifully rendered world where magic and science mix, and where the intoxication of power can be deadly. Whip-smart Thea is a heroine readers will root for.” 

- Lisa Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Magician

The Excerpt:

My mother was screaming at the Comte. Again.

I slammed the front doors behind me and walked down the carriageway, under the dappled shade of the poplars that lined it. A hundred paces away, I still heard her, though at least I could no longer hear the Comte’s frantic endearments and low, rapid pleading. He should know by now that wasn’t the way. Perhaps I should tell him. Adrien was the first of my mother’s patrons I had ever liked, and I did not want to leave Normandy just as spring was breaking. Just as we were beginning to make progress.

Though perhaps we were not. Mother would not be screaming at the Comte if the work were going well. She would not take the time. Alchemy was a demanding science, even if some scoffed and called it charlatanry or magic. It required total concentration. If the work were going well, the Comte would scarcely exist to her, nor would I, now that she would not let me be of use. The composition must have broken again. This was about when it had, last round. I could not be certain, since she had taken away my key to the laboratory. She could hardly have de- vised a worse insult than that if she had tried, and lately she did seem to be trying. The laboratory was mine as much as it was hers. If she did succeed in producing the White Elixir—which turned all metals into silver—then it was only because of my help. She had found Jābir’s text languishing in a Spanish monastery, but it had been I who translated it when her Arabic wasn’t nearly up to the job. I had labored for months over the calcinary furnace to make the philosophic mercury the text took as its starting point. I had the scars on my hands and arms to prove it. And now that success might be close, she wished to shut me out and deny my part, and claim it for herself alone.

But if she was acting ill and cross, it meant she had failed. A low, smug hum of satisfaction warmed me. I didn’t want the work to fail, but I didn’t want her to succeed without me, either.

A distant smashing sound rang out from the chateau. My mother shattering something against the wall, no doubt.

I sighed and shifted my letter box to the crook of my other arm.

I knew what this meant. Another move. Another man. The Comte had lasted longer than the rest. Over two years, long enough that I had begun to hope I would not have to do it all again. I hated the uncertainty of those first weeks, before I knew what was expected of me, whether Mother’s new patron had a temper and what might set it off, whether he liked children to speak or be silent. Though I was no longer a child, and that might bring its own problems. A chill passed over me, despite the warm afternoon sunshine. God only knew what the next one would be like. My mother had already run through so many of them. And with the recent changes in France, there were fewer rich men than ever looking to give patronage to an expensive alchemist, even one as beautiful and famous as Marguerite Hope.

I veered off the carriageway, into the soft spring grass, dotted here and there with the first of the lavender anemones. I sat by the stream, under the plum tree.

There was no screaming here, no pleading, no signs that my life was about to change for the worse. I inhaled the soft, sweet scent of plum blossoms and opened my letter box. If this was to be my last spring in Normandy, I wanted to re- member it like this. Springtime in Normandy was soft and sweet, sun shining brightly and so many things blossoming that the very air was perfumed with promise. Everything was coming extravagantly to life, bursting out of the dead ground and bare trees with so much energy other impossible things seemed likely, too. I had always been hopeful in Normandy when it was spring. Especially last spring, when Will was still here. When we sat under this very tree, drank both bottles of champagne he had stolen from the cellars, and spun tales of everything we could achieve.

I took out his last letter, dated two months ago.

Dear Bee,
This is my address now—as you see I’ve left Prussia. It turns out that everything they say about the Prussians is quite true. I’ve never met a more unbending man than my patron there. One day past the appointed date and he tried to throw me in prison for breach of contract! He thinks alchemy can be held to the same strict schedule as his serfs.

Laws against false alchemists were very harsh in Germany, as Will knew full well when he sought patronage there. I had begged him to go somewhere else, though he had few enough choices. He was my mother’s apprentice, with no achievements of his own to make his reputation. His training had been cut abruptly short when Mother found us together under this plum tree, watching the sun- rise with clasped hands and two empty bottles of champagne. She’d seen to it that Will was gone by noon. It was no use telling her that all we’d done was talk through the night, or that the one kiss we’d shared had been our first, and had gone no further. He had behaved with perfect respect for me, but she wouldn’t believe it. My mother had imagined a whole path laid before my feet in that moment, and scorched it from the earth with Greek fire.

I turned to the next page.

I blame myself, of course, Bee, for not heeding your advice. I can picture your face now, wondering what I expected. It would almost be worth all the trouble I’ve caused myself if I could come to you and see your expression. You must be the only woman in the world who is never lovelier than when you’ve been proven right.

The keen thrill of pleasure those words had brought me when I first read them had faded now, and left me feeling uncertain. Should I write back knowingly, teasing him for his recklessness? I had tried this, and was sure I sounded like a scold no matter what he said about my loveliness when proven right. I took out my latest draft, which struck a more sincere tone. I read the lines over, saying how I worried for him, how I missed him. I crumpled it in my hand halfway through. Too much emotion. It didn’t do to show such dependence on a man. My mother had shown me that. I didn’t wish to emulate her in everything, but I would be a fool to deny her skill at winning masculine devotion. I tried again.

Dear Will,
I am sitting under the plum tree where we had our last picnic. I know how you feel about nostalgia, but I hope you will forgive me this one instance. I fear this will be our last spring in Normandy—perhaps even in France. Many of my mother’s friends have left already, and though you may well condemn
them as reactionaries, the fact remains that there are very few good Republicans with the ready cash to pay for our pursuits.

I sighed again and crumpled the page. Somehow I could never seem to write to him about the Revolution without a touch of irony creeping in. I didn’t want that. Will had put his hopes for a better world in the new order, and even though I was less hopeful than he, I loved him for it. At least he wanted a better world. Most alchemists simply wanted better metals.

I tried to imagine he was here. It wouldn’t be difficult then. He was so good at setting me at ease. His admiration was as intoxicating as wine, but unlike wine it sharpened my wits instead of dulling them. I was never cleverer than when Will was there to laugh with me.

My chest constricted at the memory of Will’s laugh. I didn’t know anyone who laughed like him. The Parisian aristocrats I had known all had so much consciousness of the sound they made when they did it. The Comte wasn’t like them, but he was a serious man and laughed rarely. My mother didn’t laugh at all.

But Will. He laughed like it came from the loud, bursting core of him. Like he couldn’t have kept it in if he wanted to, and why would he want to? And when he was done laughing, he would look at me like no one else ever had. Like he saw only me, not as an accessory to my mother, but as myself. And not as an odd girl whose sharp edges would need to be softened. Will liked the edges. The sharper they cut, the more they delighted him.


I threw my letters into the letter box and snapped it shut. I looked around for somewhere to hide the box, and noticed too late that one of my crumpled drafts had blown toward the stream. My mother appeared on the hill above me, the late afternoon sun lighting up her golden hair like an unearned halo. She walked down the hill with measured steps and stopped a few yards above me, I assumed because she wished to enjoy the experi- ence of being taller than me again for a few moments. Her eye moved to the crumpled paper. I ran to it and stuffed it into my pocket before she could take it, though my haste in hiding the failed letter told her all I didn’t wish her to know.

“Oh dear,” said my mother. “I do hope you haven’t been wasting your afternoon trying to find the right words to say to that boy.”

My mother was tolerant of my letter writing these days, perhaps because she was confident I would never see Will again. She had smiled when she heard of Will’s contract in Prussia. He won’t find it so easy to charm his way past the Prussian alchemy laws. In Germany, one must deliver results, not pretty smiles, or end in prison.

“I wouldn’t have an afternoon to waste if you would let me into the laboratory,” I said.

“Don’t be pitiful, Thea,” said my mother. “Surely you can think of something worthwhile to do when I don’t happen to need your assistance.”

I clenched my teeth so tight that my jaw ached. Shutting me out of the laboratory, our laboratory, was the greatest injustice she had ever committed against me. Worse than all the moving about, worse than sending Will away, worse than any insult she could think to level at me. Before she had done that, I believed we were together in alchemy at least, even if nothing else. That she had raised and trained me not simply to be of use to her, but to be her partner. Her equal, one day. Throwing me out of the lab- oratory just when we might achieve what we had worked for told me that Will was right. She would never let me claim credit for my part of the work. She would never accept me as an alchemist in my own right.

And yet she described it as though she had simply let me off my chores. As if I were no more necessary than a servant. There was no point in arguing with her, but even so I could not let it stand.

“I am not your assistant,” I said.

“Oh?” she asked. “Do you have news, then? Have you found a patron on your own merits? Do you intend to strike out on your own?”

“Perhaps I will,” I said, my face growing hot. “Perhaps I will stay here when you are finally finished tormenting the poor Comte.”

My mother had a perfect, deceptively sweet beauty: golden blond and blue-eyed with a round, doll-like face. It made the venom that sometimes twisted her expression hard to quite believe in. Many men simply didn’t. They preferred to ignore the evidence of their minds for the evidence of their senses. I, of course, knew her better than they did. I tensed, preparing.

But instead of lashing out, my mother turned aside, a hand to her chest. A tremor passed over her; she bowed her head against it.

Mother had been strangely unwell for weeks. At first I responded to her illness as she had taught me to, with distaste and disapproval, as though falling sick were an ill-considered pastime of those with insufficient moral fortitude. But if she noticed how unpleasant it was to receive so little sympathy when unwell, she did not show it. She had locked herself away in the laboratory every day until late at night, ignoring my silence as much as she ignored the Comte’s pleas that she rest. I had not thought much of it until this moment. Any pain great enough to turn her from chastising me for thinking I could do alchemy with- out her must be serious indeed.

“Mother?” I asked.

“You will go where I tell you.” Her voice was low and breathless, almost a gasp. “For now, that is to dinner. Wear the green taffeta.”

“The robe à la française?” I asked, perplexed. I hadn’t worn that dress since before the Estates General met. Its style was the hallmark of the ancien régime: wide pan- niered hips, structured bodice, and elaborate flounces. 
“But it’s out of fashion.”

“So is our guest,” said my mother.

She went up the hill again, then turned back to me at the top.

“Thea,” she said, all the sharpness gone from her voice. “I know you do not believe it any longer, but everything I do is for you.”

It was the sort of thing she always said. Before this year, I had always believed it, more or less. At least, everything she did was for the both of us. She had considered me an extension of herself, so that doing things for me was no different than doing them for herself. Why else take so much care to train me, to see to it that I had the tutors I needed to learn every language necessary—more even than she knew? To take me with her in all her travels to seek out manuscripts? She was an impatient teacher at times, but a good one. A thorough one. And in turn I was a good student. The best.

Until we were close to our goal. Then, suddenly, I was a rival. And my mother did not tolerate rivals.

“You are right, Mother,” I said. “I don’t believe that any longer.”

Doesn't this book sound awesome? Let me know of your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

Fable by Adrienne Young
Book One of the Fable series
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Filled with all of the action, emotion, and lyrical writing that brought readers to Sky in the Deep, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Fable, the first book in this new captivating duology.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn't who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they're going to stay alive.

Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue and adventure.

What I Liked:

It has certainly been a while since I reviewed a book. But there was no way I wasn't going to write a review for Fable. I've been reading - no, savoring - Fable for months. This book was exactly what I needed to pull me out of a deep reading slump. This novel is full of high risks, adventure, friendship, found family, and a swoony slow-burn romance.

Fable is the daughter of a powerful trader (Saint), who abandoned her on a dangerous island just hours after her mother drowned during a storm at sea. Surviving on this treacherous island hasn't been easy, but Fable has been honing her skills as a deep-sea dredger to collect precious stones and gems to trade for money, so she can get off the island. But circumstances can change at the turn of the tide, and Fable finds herself in a desperate situation to get off the island. With the reluctant help of a trader, West, Fable gets off the island, and she is determined to find her father and demand her rightful place on his ship. 

I had a feeling that I would love this book before I picked it up because the summary is so intriguing, but I also had read other books by Adrienne Young and I was expecting another excellent story. Young absolutely delivered on this. This story gave me Pirates of the Caribbean vibes in the summary, and I definitely got that feeling as I was reading. The atmosphere is exciting, but also eerie/threatening/dangerous, in a sense. I love the undercurrent of danger that runs through the story, and ratchets up at the climax. One thing Young does so well is building that tension throughout the story.

From the first page, I really liked Fable. She is a heroine that is easy to like and relate to (even if you aren't in a situation like she is - most of us aren't!). She is such a strong young woman who has been put in an incredibly difficult do-or-die situation for most of her life. She is so resilient - but she isn't perfect. Her own mistakes lead her to scrambling off the island, which leads to more problems. Fable "enters" this story as a clever, tough, determined individual, but she becomes even more so as the story progresses. She opens her heart to the strangers of the Marigold, which could be a big mistake. In doing so, she finds a family that she has never had, even when her parents were in her life.

You won't just fall in love with Fable - you'll love West, and the rest of the Marigold crew. West is such a mysterious character with so many layers of backstory and tragedy. I am terribly fond of characters who aren't who they seem, and who don't trust anyone, and who have had to make awful decisions in the past. Both West and Fable are this type of character. The other members of the crew are mistrustful of Fable at first - especially Willa - and with good reason.

There is slow-burn, sweet romance in this book, and I love it so much. I shipped this couple from their initial interaction of the book, and I want them to get a happy ending so badly. There is also another romance between secondary characters which I loved. 

The ending of this book is a pretty intense cliffhanger, so be prepared to be screaming for book two when you get to the last page. I personally hate cliffhangers and I appreciate the heads-up, so that I can binge-read the series when it is published, but I read this book so early (back in January) and had no idea about the cliffhanger. The good thing is, Namesake publishes in March!

Fable is one of those stories that lingers in my mind, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I am so happy that the book has lived up to its predecessors and the hype, and I can't wait to read the conclusion to the series. 

What I Did Not Like:

Like I said, I personally don't like cliffhangers. Even in a series, I love it when the author wraps up each book, but perhaps the "big picture" plot hasn't been quite wrapped up, or something like that. I understand the need to "hook" the reader, but cliffhangers are so mean (especially when a series gets cancelled or more books are never published, for whatever reason!). As far as cliffhangers go, this is a pretty intense one, so it's a great type of cliffhanger but readers are going to be upset that Namesake isn't available yet. Hang in there!

Would I Recommend It:

I absolutely would recommend this book - especially as someone who has been in a months-long reading slump. If you're looking for action/adventure with a slow-burn romance in the background, this is a great book to read. It has crossover appeal so I would say that adults, young adults, and maybe even upper middle grade readers could read and love this book. 


5 stars. I will read anything Adrienne Young writes. Fable has cemented that. I can't wait to read Namesake!

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Blog Tour: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Good morning and happy Monday, bibliovores! I've got a post for you today! I'm so excited to share an excerpt of Janella Angeles's upcoming debut novel, Where Dreams Descend. Check it out below - and if you are planning on preordering this book, today is your last day to do so!

About the Book:

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
Book One of the Kingdom of Cards series
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Official Summary:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

About the Author:

Photo by: Mei Lin Barral Photography

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she's lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she's most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Early Praise for Where Dreams Descend:

"Janella Angeles steals the 2020 show with her fiercely imagined debut starring larger than life characters, a dangerous world alive with magic, and a dizzying dose of grab-a-fainting-couch-and-swoon-away romance!" - Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Gilded Wolves

"Where Dreams Descend is a glamorous dark gem of a tale, sparkling with romance, magic, and intrigue. Readers will be captivated by prima donna Kallia as the mystery is slowly unmasked. Bravissima!" - Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

“Lavish and opulent in a way that feels warmly familiar yet demands your attention. There are secrets upon secrets, a girl who’s boldly ambitious, and truly riveting stage magic. I didn’t want the show to stop.” - Emily A. Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

"Vibrant imagery, jaw-dropping set pieces, sizzling romantic tension, and unstoppable heroine Kallia bring this ambitious debut novel to spectacular life. Fans of Caraval and The Night Circus will be delighted!" - Claire Legrand, New York Times bestselling author of Furyborn  

"[A] spellbinding melody of a book, and the true magic is how Angeles puts all the best parts of an enrapturing theatrical performance onto paper and ink. From the gripping twists in the first pages all the way to the final, heartbreaking crescendo, Where Dreams Descend will surge you to your feet in a standing ovation.” – Sara Raasch, New York Times bestselling author of the Snow Like Ashes trilogy

Preorder Campaign:

Today is your LAST DAY to submit your receipt to receive an art print illustrated by Alexis Castellanos! The campaign ends on 08/24 at 11:59 PM EST. Open to USA/CAN.

HERE is the link!

The Excerpt:

Never come to Hellfire House without wearing a mask.

It was one of the rare rules in a joint without any. The only rule the master of the club did not mind following. He blended in with the sea of suits and white masks that arrived every other night, switching appearances from crowd to crowd. A bartender one moment, a dealer at the card tables the next.

Only his face remained the same, half-masked and haunting. Like a prince who relished the bloody crown on his head, and the ghosts that came with it. A face almost hardened by beauty, though glints of youth ran deep beneath soft black eyes. It always shocked new guests, to see him. The master of the House was rumored to be a dragon of a man. A monster. A magician who had no mercy for fools.

Only those who dared slur the word boy in his face understood how true those rumors were.

To the rest, he played the devil on all shoulders, leading patrons to his bar and game tables, guiding them toward his enchanted smoke lounge to drown in curated memories. The warmth of first love, the heady rush of triumph, the immense joy of dreams come true. The master kept a selection of sensations, and one hit of the pipes delivered magic the people came crawling to his house to taste.

They had no idea the show that was in store for them.

The master of the House sipped his short glass of scarlet whiskey in peace, tapping along the wide black strip over his brass knuckles. He’d long since manipulated his attire, sitting casually at a card table and savoring the mayhem. Raucous cheers erupted from the next table as dice rolled out across the surface. Smiling Hellfire girls in black blazers and masks of lace denied patrons begging for a dance. Loudest of all, the dealer’s crisp shuffling of the black cards with teeth-white numbers before she doled out hands to players at the table.

“No, no more,” one moaned. “I can’t.”

“Sure you can, chap.” A young man in a white thorn-edged mask cheerfully pressed him back in his seat. “We can’t leave. Haven’t even finished your drink, yet.”

His drunken friend’s mouth puckered under another gulp. “Think it’s true, the drink? Magician’s Blood, the menu said.”

“Think you have power, now?” Thorn Mask laughed, leaning back to appraise the club. “Here, you take your magic where you can get it. You wear a mask. You flip a card, smoke a memory. Or you look up . . . at her.”

The master’s fingers tightened around his glass, just as the lights dimmed. Dancers cleared the floor under the hush of music, shifting from smooth, steady beats to a racing rhythm loud as thunderous applause.

Right on cue.

The band’s worth of instruments he’d charmed for the night started up a wild entry tune of drums, the thick trill of trumpets. Chatter ceased and backs straightened as a beam of light speared toward the ceiling. A panel slid open over the dance floor.

And the chandelier descended.

Strings of crystals dangled along tiered rims of rose gold, cutting sharply into a jewel-set swing where a masked showgirl sat. A throne of glittering jewels, casting luminous lace across the walls and the ground and the audience taking her in. Her brown skin glowed against her corset, red as her gem-studded mask. Arms stretched out, she crossed and extended her legs in smooth lines all the way down, until her heels touched the lacquered black dancefloor. With the hint of a smile, she rose from her throne and stalked forward, thrusting a hand up with a snap.

Darkness engulfed the room.

Hoots and hollers rang at the drop of the beat, before a glimmer of her form reappeared in the shadows. The room pulsed at her command, matching the spike of heartbeats the master sensed throughout the club.

The smirk on his lips matched the girl’s as she arched her back to the raw stretch of the melody. She thrived under the attention, like a wildflower under the sun. A star finding the night.

His star.

“I’ll be damned.” The drunk at the card table breathed in awe, as the girl’s palms began brightening with a molten glow. “Nothing like an academy girl.”

“Worth the trip, right?” His friend clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know they could be magicians like . . . this.”

The master smothered a dark scoff under a sip of whiskey. The girl showed off good tricks—improvised and bettered from his basic crowd-pleasers. Treating the ceiling like a sky and showering comets from it, casting an elaborate shadow show of dancing shades over the floor, shifting every candlelight in the room to different colors to the beat of the music.

But always the performer, she preferred to be front and center. Teasing her power just enough to make the audience want more of her magic, more of her.

He wet his lips as flames shot from her hands, arcing over her head and around her body. The fire’s melody bent to her every movement, and she gave everything to it. If she wasn’t careful, she’d overexert herself like she did most nights, never knowing when to stop. How to pull back.

Careful never was her strongest suit.

Sparks fell before her, sizzling on the ground. Unafraid, she sauntered down her stage of flames with slow swaying hips and a firelit smile.

“Magicians like this are best kept a secret,” Thorn Mask went on. “And besides, the work is far too scandalous for a lady. Only clubs will take them.”

“What a shame. Imagine going up against the likes of her at the competition.”

The master paused, drawing his gaze back to his glass.

“Not this again. That flyer was nothing but a joke.” Thorn Mask slapped the table with a groaning laugh. “A prank.”

The drunk sloppily patted around his coat, pulling from his breast pocket a dirty, scrunched ball of paper. “It’s real. They’re all over the academies, in Deque and New Crown and—”

“A prank,” repeated Thorn Mask, unfolding the flyer anyway. “It has to be. No one’s been to that city in ages, it would never open itself to such games.”

“That makes it all the more interesting, don’t you think?” As another roar of cheers erupted around them, the friend sipped his drink smugly. “Imagine if she entered, the city might implode.”

“Right. As if that would ever happen.” Thorn Mask leered. “Competition would eat a creature like her alive.”

“Because she’s . . . ?”

With an impish lift of his brow, the man in the thorny mask flicked the flyer off the table and returned to his forgotten spread of cards. “Let’s get on with the game, shall we?”

Before he could gesture at the dealer, the master suddenly appeared at their table, snatching the young man’s wrist in a biting grip. The man yelped as the force knocked over his drink, and sent a stream of hidden cards spilling out from his sleeves.

“What’s this?” The master bent toward the ground and picked up a couple, entirely too calm. “Cheating in my house?”

The man froze, recognition dawning at the brass knuckles alone. “Where did you—I-I mean,” he sputtered, patting frantically at his sleeve. “That’s impossible. Those aren’t mine, I swear.”

“Then where did they come from?”

Sweat dripped from his temple, his face paler than the white of his mask. “I emptied my pockets at the door. Honest.”

Honest. That was the best he could do? The master almost laughed.

“You want to know the price cheaters pay in my joint?” His question offered no mercy. Only deliverance, served on ice. “Memories.”

“No, please!” The man’s lip trembled. “I didn’t, I-I’ll do whatever you want!”
“This is what I want.” The master rose from the table with the jerk of his wrist. The cheat flew to the ground in a gasp as he gripped at the invisible chain-like weight around his neck. Sharp, staccato breaths followed the master as he dragged his prisoner toward the smoke dens.

The man screamed, but no one heard him. No one saw, no one cared. All eyes fell on the star of the show as she searched for a dance partner to join her. The drunken friend, noticing nothing amiss, raised his half-full glass of Magician’s Blood to his lips before waving his hand high like the others. The man thrashed harder, only to feel his cries smothered and deeper in his throat. His form, invisible at the sweep of the master’s hand.

With a disdainful glance, the master chuckled. “You’re only making this more difficult for yourself. One memory won’t kill you.”

At once, he paused. The lights blinked around them, the air grown still. Dim and hazy, as though locked in a dream.

He thought nothing of it until he caught the movements of the patrons—their arms raised and waving slowly, increment by increment. Their cheers dulled and stretched into low, gravelly roars, as if the sound were wading through heavier air. Against time itself.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

The sound of her voice slithered around him, stopping the master in his tracks. The man quieted. Sweat soaked his pale face, his chest heaving. The showgirl stood in their path, every stare in the room still locked on the spotlit floor where she’d been. As though she’d never left.


Her red corset glinted as she cocked her hip and pointed at the man on the floor. “I choose him.”

She could never let things be easy.

“Kallia,” he growled, warning.

She smiled. “Jack.”

“Pick another. He’s a cheater.”

Her lips pursed into a dubious line. “Then let me teach him a lesson. He’ll no doubt prefer it more.” She swung a leg over the man’s prone form so she stood directly above him. Invitation dripped from the crook of her fingers. “The music calls, darling. Let’s have ourselves a grand time.”

The man’s terror turned swiftly into awe, and he looked at her as if ready to kiss the ground she walked on. As soon as he took her beckoning hand, the room resumed its lively rhythm—a song snapped back in full swing. The cheers and hollers returned to their normal speed, exploding in delight as patrons found their lovely entertainer in their midst, her chosen dance partner in tow.

She bypassed the master, pressing a casual hand on his chest to move him. It lingered, he noticed. Unafraid, unlike most. Their gazes locked for a moment, their masked faces inches apart.

No one ever dared to get this close. To him, to her.

Only each other.

At the next round of cheers and whistles, she pushed him away, smug as a cat. Tugging the man close behind her, she sent fires onto the ground that illuminated her path and warded others from trying to follow them to the stage. Never once looking back at the master, even as he watched on after her.

His fist tightened, full of the cards from his earlier trick. They disappeared into mist, having served their purpose. Along with the flyer he managed to grab.

He didn’t even bother giving it a read. It died in the fire caged by his palm. Tendrils of smoke rose between his brass knuckles, and when he opened his fingers, nothing but ash fell to the ground.

I'm so excited for this book to be published! Here is a photo of me and Janella, when I met her at ALAMW in January. She is super sweet!

Are you excited about Where Dreams Descend? Have you read books similar to this, like Caraval or The Night Circus?