Shanghai Immortal by A.Y. Chao, published 01 June 2023.
As a contestant for the most stunning cover 2023 this novel is in the lead. I applied for the ARC especially because the cover caught my attention. Yet, the story behind the cover and the interesting blurb didn’t deliver.
Shanghai Immortal seems to defy all genres that I would have assigned to it, is it an adult (urban) fantasy with Chinese mythology elements or a paranormal mystery/paranormal romance?
I’m not sure what this book’s genre actually is, but it read too modern for a story set in the Jazz Age. The MC, Lady Jing, acted like a spoiled teenager rather than a nearly 100-year-old immortal princess/half-vampire-half-fox-spirit with ties to two high courts of the mythical realm. Lady Jing is acting up just for the sake of annoying everyone around her, which shows how the author is using Jing’s childhood trauma as a plot device, it’s the only reason given for Jing’s behaviour. Furthermore, Jing doesn’t listen to the advice from the people around her, which the author tries to hide under the cloak of the “miscommunication trope”.
Where Lady Jing is presented as the anti-hero hero who wants to prevent the theft of a certain dragon pearl from the King of Hell, the secondary characters are depicted as typical paste-board romance novel characters. There’s the uber-beautiful bestie and her love-interest. There is the overly protective, yet obnoxiously annoying father-figure and his cronies, the “turd for brain bitches” who have been bullying Jing all her life, there is an avuncular figure who we get to see two three times but they have to make the deus-ex-machina work, and there is the handsome, clueless and hard to crack mortal love-interest.
Ugh! I thought I’d get an Urban Fantasy with Chinese Mythology woven into it not a hot mess of a story that I’d rank as a bland romance story that has the maturity level somewhere between middle-grade and YA. It definitely isn’t an adult paranormal/mythological urban fantasy mystery.
If you are at least somewhat interested in current and upcoming SFF books, you for sure have heard of Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter campaign last year.
The first book to kick off the Year of Sanderson is Tress of the Emerald Sea. And let me tell you, it has been well worth the wait. First of all, it is probably the most gorgous book on my shelves. The print edition is a premium hardcover with foil inlays, coloured illustrations and chapter titles.
We read it as a buddyread on The StoryGraph – if you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a really cool feature. All of us basically flew through the chapters.
The narrator is Hoid, a recurring character from Sanderson’s Cosmere universe, and his witty tone is just perfect. Little tidbits and references make you want to read everything Cosmere-related.
The story itself has all the usual YA elements – a whimsical girl setting out on a rescue mission, discovering her talents and growing throughout the whole journey. Talking animal sidekicks. Sorceresses and pirates. The cliches are there. Except…. well, except everything?
Tress is the character a younger me would have loved – and older me still does. She is not only the hero of her own story, but a sensible and pragmatic one. She does things your usual YA heroine just does not do, she – gasp – pauses to think! This book is written so well that your usual YA stock should go stand in a corner and be ashamed.
On top of that, this book is highly quotable. I could have written something down from almost every page. Probably my favourite one:
One might say worries are the only things you can make heavier simply by thinking about them.
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson
I would have loved this book to get me through a lockdown. Stuck in a reading slump? Read it. Bad day at work? Read it. Need escapism? You know what to do. Just let me warn you that this will lead to a severe book hangover.
5/5… all the Magpies!
The Lady Duck Of Doom agrees wholeheartedly with everything the Marquess has written. This is the YA hero my 15 year old me would have loved. A girl who actually uses her brain, instead of being described as “thoughtful and intelligent” and then rushing into everything based on assumption and pure emotions.
Hoid, our narrator, delivers the story with so many unbearably good quotes about life, the universe and everything that I am considering buying an extra copy and re-reading it with a highlighter to get all the good ones. It will probably need more than one highlighter I think. The humour of our narrator reminds me a bit of Good Omens by Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and the afterword revealed it was indeed an inspiration.
I don’t know if it is possible for Brandon Sanderson to top this with the other three books lined up for this year. Next up is a non-Cosmere novel, and I can’t wait to get my hands on that. The book hangover should be over by then.
TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle doesn’t have a lot to add to what my fellow flock-mates already wrote. If you have ever wondered what might have happened had Goldman’s Buttercup gone looking for Westley, you should read this novel. Tress of the Emerald Sea is the one book that redeems the YA genre for me. It outclasses all other YA books I have ever read.
5/5 Harpy Eagles – actually, it should be 6/5 Harpy Eagles, because see above.
I suppose there will be a part two towards the end of the month, just because I seem to be reading at least one book a day at the moment.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi, expected publication day 14 February 2023.
A gorgeous UK cover. A Gothic tale with beautiful lyrical writing and different folk tales woven into it.
Sadly, the very slow plot never really gripped my attention.
Trigger warning: the relationships between the MCs is toxic, which made reading the story not easier.
2/5 Harpy Eagles
Arden St. Ives trilogy by Alexis Hall
How to Bang a Billionaire (2017)
Arden St. Ives is a student at Oxford when he meets billionaire Caspian Hart. There is chemistry, but although Arden would like to pursue the relationship Caspian doesn't want to ... at first.
Arden is a bit neurotic, yet playful and has an interesting approach to life. Caspian has this dark secret that will be uncovered by the end of the trilogy. There is a billionaire throwing his money around, but it's kind of natural rather than OTT. It's not as steamy as I expected it to be, nor full of weird BDSM.
This first book ends without a cliffhanger. Still, you -just like me- might want to read the next book in this gay 50 Shades of Grey trilogy you didn't know you'd want to read until you started it.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
How to Blow it with a Billionaire (2017)
Arden and Caspian are trying to make their relationship work, but the odds are stacked against them. Caspian is a workaholic and has limited time to spend with Arden.
This book ends in a cliffhanger of sorts. There is a possibility for a happily ever after in the third book though.
5/5 Harpy Eagles
How to Belong with a Billionaire (2019)
Arden and Caspian have a long way to go to get their HEA.
The most important thing for me was knowing that Ardy-Baby was okay. We also get to see more of Ellery (Caspian's sister) and Bellerose (Caspian's PA), which makes me hope that either of them gets their own book in future.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart, published 22 February 2022.
The Paradox Hotel caters for the super-rich who are about to embark on or have come back from a trip to another century at the Einstein Intercentury Timeport. Grumpy January Cole is the head of security at the hotel and her day just got harder. She's unstuck, which means she is no longer rooted in time. She sees her dead girlfriend, different timelines and there is a dead body not even her AI bot can see. On top of that, four trillionaires are about to meet for a summit to bid on the hotel.
January is the perfect cynical sarcastic detective to find out who killed the dead body. She's pressed for time though, her mind is crumbling, and time is acting up in the weirdest way.
It's a time travel detective story with a noir vibe, LGBTQ+ representation, and a very diverse found family.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter, published 24 November 2022.
I get that thrillers thrive on secrets, but this story was full of rather obvious secrets. Not only that, the secrets were dangle in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey; they were clearly just used to make me turn the pages.
I didn't mind the non-linear storytelling. I was much more peeved that the two POV read very similar; shouldn't a teenager sound different from his mid-thirties mother?
And why was the secret in the titular Locked Attic not the main topic of the story? The title and blurb are misleading.
I really liked the author's The Dinner Guest, but his last book The Woman on the Pier and this book didn't really work for me.
The third book in Kerry Maniscalco’s Kingdom of the Wicked series, Kingdom of the Feared, published 27 September 2022, is hailed as YoungAdult/16+ on the big retail platforms. It’s not, trust me. It’s so adult that you can’t even call it New Adult.
In book 2, Kingdom of the Cursed, Emilia was openly lusting after Wrath and there were some explicit scenes in the novel.
I didn’t expect book 3 to have less sex, but it’s supposed to be a fantasy romance. Imagine my surprise when Emilia basically offered herself on a silver platter from page one. Where’s the romance in that? Sex is not romance and I shudder at the thought that this novel might be read by YA readers thinking it was.
If you want to read the book(s) without spoilers, please stop reading here.
Tiny recap: Book 1 introduces Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria, who are witches in a long line of Sicilian witches. They’ve been told not to engage in black magic and to fear the demons of hell. Vittoria is killed at the beginning of the story and Emilia tries to find her killer. She summons a demon of hell to help her, who turns out to be Wrath, a prince of hell.
In book 2 Emilia and Wrath make their way to the seven kingdoms of hell. Emilia is to marry the Devil, who turns out not to be Pride, but Wrath. At the end of the book all that is left for Emilia and Wrath to do to seal their marriage/bargain is to have sexual intercourse; and by that I mean penis in vagina, any other form of sex they’ve had before was just foreplay. But, just as they are about to get down to business, Emilia finds out that her sister Vittoria might still be alive.
Book 3 then opens with Emilia trying to seduce Wrath, who still goes out of his way to give Emilia space and breathing room to decide whether she actually wants to enter this marriage. Emilia wants this marriage, or does she just want to bone Wrath? Not quite sure. Whenever they are together Emilia’s libido is in overdrive and all she can think about [and tells the reader all over and over and over] is how hot and bothered Wrath makes her feel and how much she wants and needs him. Before you reach chapter ten, Emilia has taken off her clothes several times and tried to climb her prince of hell in different ways, she even went down on him in a gondola.
Unfortunately, every time Emilia wants to seal their bargain by banging Wrath, a tiny bit of plot happens. For example, Vittoria is not dead, she’s in league with werewolves. Also, Vittoria tries to force Emilia to remember her former life, because Emilia is neither a mortal, nor a witch. Furthermore there are vampires and all the princes of hell and machinations. Secrets are unravelled, the ancient curse is lifted [yay!] and it all feels bland. Just as bland as a porn film, where some sort of plot has to happen that leads you from one scene of bippity-boppety to the next.
The last chapter of the book hints at a spin-off series about Pride and Vittoria and Lucia. If that happens, I’m rooting for Lucia and Vittoria to get together, but would expect some sort of threesome to happen. [If you are wondering who Lucia is, it’s a character from book 1 on, but I won’t spoil who exactly here.]
Long story short: Read this book if you liked SJM’s ACOTAR. Or if you like shifter literotica/romance stories with possessive males and strong-yet-not-in-need-but-actually-kind-of-in-need-of-protection females. The whole family of princes of hell reminded me of a werewolf pack and/or a coven/seethe/sucking(?) of vampires – or maybe I just read too many Patricia Briggs and JR Ward novels.
Husband Material by Alexis Hall, published 02 August 2022.
The sequel to Boyfriend Material is not just as good as the first book, it's better. Knowing the characters already, it's seeing them grow and struggle and overcome obstacles, which makes it so much better. There were lots of LOL moments for me, but just as many moments where I empathised with both main characters and their struggles.
Hall clearly knows how to write stories and how to play to the strengths of the English language.
Caveat: The structure of the book kind of made the ending obvious, but it's the best ending for Oliver and Luc.
5/5 Harpy Eagles
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall, published 18 May 2021.
Yes, another Alexis Hall book. I read this first book in the Winner Bakes All series in preparation for the upcoming sequel, Paris Daillencourt is about to Crumble (publishing day 18 Oct 2022).
Does Hall know how to play with tropes? Yes! This novel features a love triangle, which is extremely well-executed; compared to all those cringe-y YA love triangles. Furthermore there's a sesquipedalian eight year old, witty banter and lots of cake since the love interests meet at a national baking competition.
Eventually though this is a story about personal growth and standing up for yourself.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole, published/released 19 December 2019.
An A.I. hotty who has to figure out his humanity, a woman suffering from PTSD following an accident, and an interesting (though not entirely unexpected) twist towards the end of the story.
This audiobook-only sci-fi romance story was more interesting than I had expected. I thought this would be far more sizzling romance than sci-fi, but the SF parts of the story were well thought through.
The dual point of view narration by Regina Hall and Feodor Chin is enhanced by the addition of a whole cast of narrators.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
Grand Theft Astro by Scott Meyer, published 29 July 2021.
The Audible Originals audiobook-only story is about Baird, a thief, who, on her latest heist, had been infected with a virus that has no cure yet. She has seven days to live. Her 'handler' tells her that in order to ensure a proper medical treatment Baird not only has to steal certain components of the cure, she also has to remain in stasis while she's not actively stealing. While in stasis she's being transported to her next place of 'work', which often takes several years.
So far I was on board, if a bit sceptical about how gullible the protagonist is; accepting and relying on all information necessary provided by the handler only.
Then the book seemed to turn to middle-grade level without being for that audience. While scoping out the places Baird has to rob, she's told everything about how the security systems work by the security people themselves. The way she then executes her heists is supposed to be funny/comical; I thought not. But that might be me.
I gave up after the second heist. It read too much like an underdeveloped middle-grade book with way too much tell and very little show.
1/5 Harpy Eagles
Belladonna by Adalyn Grace, published 30 August 2022.
The audiobook of this YA gothic/paranormal fantasy novel was good. The narrator, Kristin Atherton, did a good job giving each character a distinct voice. Especially Death's voice was rather sultry.
To be honest, I might have bailed on the book had it not been for the audiobook. Why would I have bailed? It was a bit too long-winded for my taste. There was too much woe-be-me by the main character, Signa. And the mysteries were, given I had paid attention from the start, obvious to me. Add jarring anachronisms and I'm normally out. So kudos to the narrator.
If you liked Kingdom of the Wicked, you will certainly like this book. After all, it's a story of romance between a not-so-mere mortal and Death.
I’ve read so many palate cleanser books -light entertainment, romance mainly- that I am wondering whether the real palate cleansers are the Sci-Fi and Fantasy books I read in between.
Anyway, here are a few of the books I have read that would make an ideal read for a day at the beach, or by the pool, or under a tree in the park, or wherever you like to spend a drowsy afternoon when the temperatures are high.
Stuck on You by Portia Macintosh, published 17 September 2020.
This is a Christmas themed book and might hence be a bit weird to read on a hot day, but reading about cold days might help you cool off a bit. You might also get a few ideas about how to celebrate Christmas in a quirky way.
Sadie is the PA of Damian Banks, famous portrait photographer. Hence her life revolves around his whims and she has no time for friendships or love. Except, she has a sticky-notes penpal-friendship with her desk-buddy Adam, whom she can confide in.
With Christmas around the corner, and a new year coming up, Sadie wants to make more time for herself. Can she invite Adam out for a drink? Can she leave the demanding Damian for a new job? Or will she re-ignite the flame that once burned between her and her high-school boyfriend Brian?
The romance was very predictable and the major plot twist probably just came as a surprise for the female lead. Strange that the otherwise intelligent woman didn't catch on to it sooner.
There was a lot of build-up about Mackie, a person Damian takes photos of, at the beginning of the story and I would have liked to see this rounded up; a snippet from a newspaper towards the end of the book would have been nice. It felt like a story line that was dropped half-way to its conclusion for the sake of the romantic Christmas plot.
ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley
3/5 Harpy Eagles
Note to Self by Anna Bell, published 23 June 2022.
Edie just turned 35 years old. A few days after her birthday emails arrive, written by her 18 y/o self during the summer she met Joel. The summer that changed her life forever. The summer Joel broke her heart. The summer her mother died.
The emails are like entries in a diary. They remind Edie of who she was back then and how much her life and her goals in life have changed. And they make her reach out to the people she met working at a campsite that summer, reconnecting with old friends.
Of course Joel is part of that group. The chemistry between the two of them is still there. But Edie is in a relationship, and Joel has an American girlfriend he might want to follow to Florida for work.
What I liked most about this book was how down to earth the individual characters' lives were. They all had their problems, but were projecting if not a perfect life than at least a happy life to the world.
TW: grief, alcoholism
ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley
5/5 Harpy Eagles
Stone Broke Heiress by Danielle Owen-Jones, published 21 March 2022.
From riches to rags. Or from Dom Pérignon to dumpster diving. The blurb sounded fantastic and if I was less of a sceptic it might have worked. If you like a really light read, where you can overlook a lot of the flaws of the premise behind this story, this is the perfect rom-com for you.
Bella's family loses their tinned soup company. Bella loses her fiancé to her best friend. Bella is out of a job and broke. So Bella has to find a cheap flat and a job.
Of course she starts working at a soup kitchen, her familial background would make this an ideal job for her, but she's never wielded a spatula in her whole life.
Dan, the owner of the soup kitchen, is a good looking grump. He holds a grudge against her family, so Bella has to lie about who she is...
The writing is easy to follow if a bit repetitive at times.
ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley
2/5 Harpy Eagles
Abridged Classics by John Atkinson, published 5 June 2018.
To give you the full title of the book:
Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn't.
What more could I tell you about the book? Each classic book is summed up in one or two fitting drawings with a one-liner at the bottom.
Perfect if you need a good chuckle in between some very sad books.
If you intend to still read those classics mentioned in the book, don't worry, the short summaries do not spoil the stories.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
How to Swear by Stephen Wildish, published 10 April 2018.
Just in case the Abridged Classics didn't cheer you up, try this book. It has Venn diagrams and charts about swearing.
This is the perfect book for you, if you feel like you need a refresher course on the four letter words you were told never to utter in polite and/or under-aged company.
It's a very brief book, so don't expect in-depth etymology of words. What it lacks in depth, it makes up in summing up the important facts in handy graphs.
Lately I’ve read a few books that were supposed to send shivers down my back, or a tingle up my spine, or at least give me a mild case of goosebumps, but all they did was make me wonder whether my sense of thrill is broken.
Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes, published 08 February 2022.
It was hailed as Titanic meets Event Horizon and that is more or less what you get. A luxury space liner adrift for two decades. An emergency signal picked up by a small crew. As soon as the crew enters the space liner they know something is wrong. The whole ship is frozen. The passengers are dead, but something moved. They all saw something move out of the corner of their eyes.
It wasn't that big of a surprise to me, what was behind the horror. Still, the book was interesting and entertaining enough for me to stick it out till the end.
3/5 Harpy Eagles
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, first published January 2020.
Take a secret society that is the heir to the Great Library of Alexandria, six young magicians, who are the best of the best, and a building that is very English and that is to be the home of the young magicians until the initiation, when one of them has to be murdered by the others.
Dark academia YA fantasy, unlikable characters that hardly ever interact with each other, lots of telling instead of showing, stilted dialogue, a big twist that just isn't. And this is the revised edition?! I do not want to know what the first - unrevised - edition looked like.
This book will have its following. It's been hyped on TikTok and has a wonderful cover. It just wasn't for me.
1/5 Harpy Eagles
Sundial by Catriona Ward, published 10 March 2022 (UK).
"... [A] twisty horror novel..." Erm, no.
Lots of animal cruelty and child torture? Yes.
Did I enjoy the prose style? No.
Did I guess the twist(s) beforehand? Yes.
Would I recommend the book to anyone? No.
Books are perfect to travel to different places and different times; I don’t need to tell you this, I know. My recent reading took me to Edinburgh in the 19th century. Both books not only had the setting in common, both books also dealt with the study of the human body and the supernatural. Now that I think of it, both even offered a spot of romance.
The first novel was Anatomy by Dana Schwartz. The cover hooked me, the blurb got me:
Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry.
Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die.
When the two of them have a chance encounter outside the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.
Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then.
But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.
Well, this should have been my jam – apart from it being a YA novel: Gothic tale, a mystery, a romance. It wasn’t. But it sure has a great cover.
It’s the autumn of 1817, our teenage heroine, Hazel, is a smart red-head who lives in a castle. She’s read every medical book in her father’s library and knows how to distinguish the humerus from the femur, but doesn’t know that becoming a female physician – that is a woman who’s a medical professional – is not in her future. And no, before you think something along the lines of, but this girl will use her strong will to show the patriarchy what’s what, forget it. She’s the kind of girl who’s flabbergasted when she find out that her future husband will determine whether she might practice medicine, given that she first has to be allowed to study and pass the exam. Basically, we have a 21st century girl in a 19th century setting.
Jack is a dull character. He snatches bodies out of graves and sells them to anatomists. He has a crush on an actress. He snatches bodies out of graves… Oh, I said that already. Well, you get the picture.
The pacing of the novel is off. The blurb is a summary of the first 40% of the book. The mystery was a no show until about 75%. Then we get the story going, wrapped up, and a potential sequel hinted at in the remaining quarter.
While I was waiting for the (not really baffling) mystery, I realised a lot of inconsistencies with the time and place of the story: Word of mouth goes round about a teenager performing medical procedures alone in her house – but no authority cares. A pregnant woman in labour is walking for hours to get to Hazel instead of finding a midwife near her. A policeman treating Hazel like he has no care in the world about her socially higher standing. Anachronistic language and no distinction in speech between the different social classes. I could continue. There was so much more. Just thinking Edinburgh, late September, sunrise and sunset times, and my hackles rise again. Dear author, how much research did you really put into this book?
One more thing about the romance: Hazel and Jack hiding in the grave of a mutilated body and kissing and falling asleep with said body only feet away – so romantic.
1/5 Harpy Eagles
The second novel that brought me to Edinburgh was set at the other end of the century. It’s Craig Russell’s Hyde, a retelling of the Robert Louis Stevenson story.
Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.
When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.
He must find the killer, or lose his mind.
A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.
It is always a problem for me to write a long review about a book that I enjoyed.
Hyde is a dark-ish character. He’s not the monster Stevenson painted, but works for the Edinburgh police force. He’s been hiding his episodes since his childhood, recently they have become more severe. So severe, that Hyde fears he might be the brutal killer himself. Coming out of his “spells,” he finds himself close to the murder victims too often for it to be coincidence.
The occult dark part was a tiny bit predictable for me. I have read similar stories and knew who the puppet master pulling the strings was early on. This did not diminish my enjoyment of the story, though.
Russell played with the original duality of Stevenson’s story, but gave it a different twist. Setting, characters and plot development made sense. Add a few cameos and they made me overlook the few inconsistencies.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (GER edition) by Laini Taylor, 2011.
The first book of a YA fantasy romance trilogy featuring angels and demons and a blue haired girl with lots of tattoos. The human girl Karou grew up among chimera. She's an arts student in Prague, but she's also dealing in teeth for her 'adoptive' father, the chimera Brimstone.
When, on one of her errands for Brimstone, an angel attacks her, and subsequently all the doors to Brimstone's workshop are magically burnt shut, Karou has to face the angel Akiva to find answers about her life and a way back to the shop.
I've read Karou's and Akiva's story several times. This time I read it in German with my daughter.
The story is still as good, the translation leaves room for improvement though.
5/5 Harpy Eagles – because we enjoyed the mistranslations very much
The Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari, expected publication 7 June 2022. (ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley)
A murder mystery set in London in the 1930s with a strong female heroine.
Saffron Everleigh is working on her PhD in botany. As a woman in academia, in the 1930s, she has to fight a lot of uphill battles already. When the wife of one of the professors of the department is poisoned at a party, Saffron is determined to proof the innocence of her mentor.
There are some really villainous villains and a lot of very dumb detectives; and there's chemistry between Saffron and her sidekick.
Brimming with botanical information that isn't at all dull, and, most importantly for me, not too obvious plot twists.
5/5 Harpy Eagles
Evershore. A Skyward Flight novella by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, published 28 December 2021.
This is Jorgen's story and it's taking place at the same time as the third Skyward Flight novel Cytonic.
Jorgen is trying to master his cytonic abilities. He's training with the alien Alanik. This is how they pick up a transmission from Evershore, the Kitsen home planet. Jorgen and part of Skyward flight travel to Evershore, where they meet Kitsen, see clouds, the sea and beaches for the first time; and find out - among a lot of other things - that sand truly gets everywhere.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows by James Lovegrove, published 2017.
Lovegrove knows how to spin a yarn, just as well as Dr Watson.
Three manuscripts, by Dr Watson, were found. Those manuscripts are the true accounts of what Holmes and Watson faced.
In 1880, logical Sherlock Holmes comes up against the occult for the first time. Lovecraft's Elder gods are roaming Victorian London. Can Sherlock Holmes' rational reasoning handle the inexplicable? Magic?
Has this been done before? Sure.
Did it entertain me? Couldn't put it down.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
Cackle by Rachel Harrison, published 5 October 2021.
Annie, after being dumped by her BF of ten years, moves from Manhattan to a small town in a rural area. The quaint town offers her a new start. Alas, Annie is a doormat and hence gravitates towards the self-confident and charismatic Sophie, who surprisingly wants to be Annie's friend. She wants Annie to recognise her true self. Annie wants her ex back, wants a man in her life, wants to drink her body's volume in alcohol. Honestly, this woman drinks a lot.
Tension? Horror? Not really.
Female empowerment? If that means you should be obnoxious and rude, then no.
Best character, even though he was more like a children's book character, the pet-spider Ralph.
Battle of the Linguist Mages by Scotto Moore, publishing date 11 January 2022.
The title and cover made me request this book. Look at it, doesn’t it make you think Space Opera with magic and a pinch of language science?
The combination of magic, video games and linguistics, sounded so up my alley that I was really excited when I was approved for an ARC.
Sadly, this was not the book I had hoped it would be. It read like fan-fiction; and I don’t mean the good kind.
I could not connect with the MC. Isobel is the stereotypical gamer: recluse, full of herself, too snarky, but also too gullible.
The linguistics behind the spell casting within the game, although explained, made no sense to me. Power morphemes – so basically “shout gibberish” and you can cast a spell? Add alien punctuation marks and I am constantly thinking WTF?! Maybe I am too much of a linguist and overthinking this?
Here’s what else jarred
The slang and pop-culture references felt out-dated, by at least a decade.
Every character introduced themselves by stating their name, race and pronouns; “Hello, I’m …. I’m white. My pronouns are she/her.”