ARC Review: Reader, I Murdered Him by Betsy Cornwell

Special thanks to Rylee Warner at Spark Point Studio for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Reader, I Murdered Him
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pub Date: 11 October 2022
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

The author of the visionary New York Times bestseller Dread Nation returns with another spellbinding historical fantasy set at the crossroads of race and power in America.

It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided—between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology—otherwise known as Mechomancy—not the traditional mystical arts.

Laura disagrees. A talented young mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker.

But six months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.

As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power—work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Sexual assault, physical violence, murder (on-page), sexual abuse (inferred/implied), parricide (on-page), death of parent (mother, off-page)

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ARC Review: Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland

Special thanks to Grace Fell at Spark Point Studio and Balzer + Bray for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Rust in the Root
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pub Date: 20 September 2022
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

The author of the visionary New York Times bestseller Dread Nation returns with another spellbinding historical fantasy set at the crossroads of race and power in America.

It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided—between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology—otherwise known as Mechomancy—not the traditional mystical arts.

Laura disagrees. A talented young mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker.

But six months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.

As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power—work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Racism, use of racial slurs, slavery (historical), genocide (historical), violent death (on-page)

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Romance Mini-Reviews: The Charm Offensive + The Missed Connection

Note: these reviews were originally posted on my Goodreads in June and July 2022 (oldest first)

The Charm Offensive
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: 07 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to open up to the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Anxiety, panic attacks, mental illness (chronic depression), homophobia, OCD, racial micro aggressions

Dev and Charlie absolutely charmed me! 🥹 They have an almost instant connection that slowly develops into a heartwarming romance. My heart hurt for Charlie as he struggled to believe that he deserved love because all his life people have treated him as “less- than” due to his OCD and anxiety. I loved watching him slowly learn to not be apologetic for being who he is. Dev is a hopeless romantic who is scared to accept love out of fear of being abandoned or rejected. He puts on a “Fun Dev” persona pretending everything is fine despite suffering from chronic depression. Not only did I love the diversity and LGBTQIA+ representation in this book, but I thought the mental health, OCD and anxiety rep was also really well addressed and handled sensitively.

Their romance was incredibly soft and sweet with super swoontastic moments that had me reading with heart-eyes. 😍 There’s a forbidden romance element which really upped the stakes and increased the tension. I appreciated that they did what they needed to do for themselves first to have a healthy relationship. As much as I enjoyed this though, I admit that I expected to love it much more than I did. There were moments when I felt disconnected from the characters and romance. It was enjoyable enough but when I had to put it down, I also didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up again immediately! Still, I did enjoy this a lot and I would definitely love to read parts of it again because they made my heart very happy!

The Missed Connection (Airport Novellas #2)
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 21 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Two strangers share a romantic night together only to discover months later they’re professional rivals in this grumpy meets sunshine romance novella from the acclaimed author of How To Fail at Flirting.

Gia loves her job as a professor, even when it means dealing with an elusive rival academic who’s made it his mission to criticize her work. When she meets him for the first time, she’s shocked to learn they’ve met before. Months earlier, they shared a perfect New Year’s Eve together in an airport during a weather delay.

After months of working together, Felix still can’t believe the person whose research he’s been challenging is the same captivating woman he kissed that night. The two couldn’t be more different. Gia is bubbly, friendly, and extroverted and drives ordered, serious Felix nuts.

Now the two have been assigned to embark on a five-school tour for work. Gia and Felix can’t imagine a travel partner they’d enjoy less until they feel the sparks fly over their shared armrests, security mishaps, and a shared hotel room. They’ll need to decide if they can manage their professional tension, or risk missing the connection of a lifetime.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Workplace misogyny, sexism

This wasn’t anything particularly special but it was exactly what I wanted when I went in search of a fast in-between read this morning. This was my first Denise Williams book so I didn’t have any expectations going in but I’m happy to say that I enjoyed her writing and characters!

Gia and Felix are your typical grumpy-sunshine trope in a work-nemesis-to-lovers romance situation. Their meet-cute on NYE at the airport is like what those romantic dreams are made of only for those fantasies to crumble to dust a few months down the line when they meet again and realise they’re enemies in the professional field in real life. These two have a clear attraction to each other that I really enjoyed seeing grow as they spend more time together. Felix is a pretty closed book and I felt the win alongside Gia every time her sunshine personality managed to elicit even the smallest of grins from him. Despite their opposite personalities they clicked so well and I loved how Gia encouraged Felix to be more relaxed and open, and I loved the way he grounded her. They were so accepting of each other and it was really sweet!

I’d have loved to read more about them but even with this being a novella, I still really enjoyed seeing how they evolve and grow together. This also served big on that happy ending. Was it a little cheesy? Heck yes but it was so perfectly Gia but I loved that it was Felix who came up with the idea for her 😂 They’re so cute!

Have you read either of these contemporary romances or are they on your TBR? If you did, what did you think of them?

Book Review: Juniper Hill by Devney Perry

Juniper Hill (The Edens #2)
Published: 11 January 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Memphis Ward arrives in Quincy, Montana, on the fifth worst day of her life. She needs a shower. She needs a snack. She needs some sanity. Because moving across the country with her newborn baby is by far the craziest thing she’s ever done.

But maybe it takes a little crazy to build a good life. If putting the past behind her requires a thousand miles and a new town, she’ll do it if it means a better future for her son. Even if it requires setting aside the glamour of her former life. Even if it requires working as a housekeeper at The Eloise Inn and living in an apartment above a garage.

It’s there, on the fifth worst day of her life, that she meets the handsomest man she’s ever laid eyes on. Knox Eden is a beautiful, sinful dream, a chef and her temporary landlord. With his sharp, stubbled jaw and tattooed arms, he’s raw and rugged and everything she’s never had—and never will. Because after the first worst day of her life, Memphis learned a good life requires giving up on her dreams too. And a man like Knox Eden will only ever be a dream.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Child kidnapping, infidelity (not between MCs)

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ARC Review: Dyer Street Punk Witches by Phil Williams

✨ HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO DYER STREET PUNK WITCHES! ✨

When Phil Williams reached out a couple of months ago asking if I wanted to read his latest book Dyer Street Punk Witches, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Williams’ books are typically a little out of my comfort zone and although I’ve only read his Ikiri Duology, I had such a good time reading them that I’m keen to keep reading more of his books. Check out my reviews for Kept from Cages and Given to Darkness.

On that note, today I’m excited to share my thoughts, a few favourite quotes, plus, one of (several) collectable character trading cards as provided by the author.
Special thanks to the author for providing a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Blog Tour Review: A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin

Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin and I’m very excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes with you today! You can check out my review for the first book in the duology, A Magic Steeped in Poison HERE.

Thanks to the author and Feiwel & Friends for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on tour!

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Book Review: Malice by Heather Walter

Goodreads: Malice (Malice Duology #1)
Publisher: Del Rey
Published: 13 April 2021
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Retelling

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.
You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she…cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I— I am the villain.

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Blog Tour Review: Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen

Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen and I’m excited to share my review and favourite quotes with you today!

Thanks to Delacorte Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

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Book Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness. Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

A YA coming of age read that tackles issues of identity, the pressure to succeed, diversity and freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tour de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.

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Book Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Goodreads: Felix Ever After
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Published: 18 May 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

Felix Love has never been in love – and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalisation too many – Black, queer and transgender – to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages – after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned – Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle . . .

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognising the love you deserve.

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