Book Review: The Silvered Serpents

Title: The Silvered Serpents
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 416
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: POC, LGBTQ+, and autistic characters
Recommended Readers: Lovers of character-driven, fantasy adventures set in the real world (19th century)
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

What a dramatic and tragic return! Roshani Chokshi has taken everything that made The Gilded Wolves fun and intriguing and added so much more for The Silvered Serpents. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s an easy 4.25 stars from me because I felt swept away from the first page. Everything here is richer. The world, the magic system, the stakes, the consequences, the characters, oh my, the characters.

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ARC Review: A Murderous Relation

a murderous relationTitle: A Murderous Relation
Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Berkley
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Victorian England setting, sex-positive protagonist
Recommended Readers: Anyone who wants to start reading mystery
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, Net Galley and the publisher, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Once again, Deanna Raybourn returns with a Veronica Speedwell mystery that is unabashedly fun and a sheer delight to read. I flew through A Murderous Relation with a speed I regret, because I think this might be the last book? I heard a rumor that more mysteries might be in store for Veronica, but until that Goodreads page updates, I will consider this series has ended on a satisfyingly high note.

This time, Veronica and Stoker are drawn into an investigation involving her half-brother, Prince Albert Victor. He’s given a diamond to Madame Aurore, the female owner of the most exclusive club in London known for its anonymity and offerings of sexual freedom. The diamond must be reclaimed before it can be traced back to the prince and erupt scandal within the monarchy and across the country. The timing couldn’t be worse, for London is also gripped in terror over the gruesome attacks of Jack the Ripper, and Lady Wellington, a friend of Veronica and a protector of the crown, suspects that the prince might be responsible. As Veronica and Stoker investigate the brothel, secrets surrounding the royal family and Veronica’s place in it begin to present themselves—along with another dead body.

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ARC Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

gods of jade and shadow
Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
 Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Del Rey
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Mexican characters, Mayan death gods, mortal/immortal slowburn
Recommended Readers: Mythology lovers and those seeking well-written, diverse stories
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, where have you been all my life? How did you know that I am a reader who constantly craves that miraculous blend of historical fiction and fantasy? That I love gods and mythology and that surreal line that divides immortals from mortals?

Gods of Jade and Shadow transports readers to Mexico in the 1920s–a period I’ve often loved but which is commonly viewed through a white, American lens. Seeing the Jazz Age and flapper fashion juxtaposed with Mexican culture and conservative Catholicism was a treat, but the real fun begins when Casiopea Tun opens a chest locked in her grandfather’s estate. There, the bones inside form into Mayan death god Hun-Kamé.

Betrayed by his brother, Vucub-Kamé, and locked away for fifty years, Hun-Kamé seeks the parts of himself that were stolen from him and to reclaim his place as the Lord of Xibalba. With a bone shard embedded in her hand, Casiopea must accompany the god on his journey, but leaving the life of a thankless servant in her grandfather’s house makes the choice an easy one. Instead, Casiopea must discover the life she wants to live and ensure Hun-Kamé succeeds against his brother because if he does not, it will mean the demise of them both.

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Book Review: A Dangerous Collaboration

a dangerous collaboration

Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
 Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Berkley
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Victorian setting, Sex-positive protagonist
Recommended Readers: Anyone who wants to start reading mystery
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The mystery and adventure continue with A Dangerous Collaboration, the fourth novel in the Veronica Speedwell series. It’s rare to find a series that maintains its charm, fun, intrigue, and accessibility, but Deanna Raybourn has done exactly that. I love that I gave this series and new author (for me) a chance.

After the almost-revelation that Veronica and Stoker had in A Treacherous Curse, Veronica takes a few months to go on her own excursion without Stoker. When she returns, she finds she’s struggling with dissatisfaction, and there’s a distance between her and Stoker that she doesn’t like but doesn’t know how to bridge.

Her slump is broken with the arrival of Tiberius, Stoker’s half-brother and the Lord Templeton-Vane, who invites Veronica to attend Lord Malcolm Romilly’s house party with him on a remote island off the tip of Cornwall. Sensing a new adventure, Veronica jumps at the chance, even as Tiberius convinces her to pose as his fiancée, to Stoker’s annoyance (oh, hello, trope I absolutely love with all my heart). But there’s more behind this invitation than just a house party, and Veronica and Stoker find themselves investigating the party-goers and their connection to Rosamund, Romilly’s missing wife who disappeared from her own wedding three years ago.

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Book Review: The Night Tiger

the night tiger

Title: The Night Tiger
 Yangsze Choo
Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism
Version: ARC – Paperback
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Malaysian/Chinese characters and culture
Recommended Readers: Fans of rich settings, diverse characters, and a dash of the superstitious
Rating: ★★★★★

Both my roommate and I received ARCs of The Night Tiger, one an ebook from NetGalley and one a beautiful paperback edition from the publisher, so thank you both for each of these. This review is given in exchange and is my honest and true opinion.

Mark down Yangsze Choo as officially being one of my favorite authors. It’s unfair how wonderful her sophomore novel, The Night Tiger, is—or it would be, if it weren’t so apparent how much time, care, and hard work Choo put into her story. While I’ll go on record to say that her first book, The Ghost Bride, is my favorite of the two, there’s no denying how much I enjoyed The Night Tiger. It’s a book that will stay with me. Her style in particular is that perfect blend of historical fiction and magical realism that I love to death but is so hard to find, so this is definitely going on my favorites shelf.

The novel follows three protagonists: Ren, an 11-year-old Chinese houseboy; Ji Lin, a young woman who dreams of pursuing medicine but must work as a dressmaker and moonlight as a dancehall girl, both because of her gender and to pay off her mother’s high-interest Mahjong debts; and William, an Englishman with a murky past. Their fates and those of other characters collide as Ren attempts to fulfill the final request of his late master: locate his severed finger and reunite it with his body before 49 days are up, or his master’s spirit will roam the earth as a night tiger, unable to rest forever.

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Most Anticipated Book Releases – December 2018

Hey, folks! Welcome back to the last Most Anticipated Book Releases post of the year. This time, I’ve found the top books I’m most excited for that are being released in December 2018. While the pickings were slim this time thanks to December not being a publication-heavy month, I still managed to find a few books I’d like to keep an eye on.

The novel I’m looking forward to the most this month is…

december books 2018

The Disasters by M.K. England is an LGBT science fiction novel whose premise surprised me right away. Nax Hall is a hotshot pilot whose penchant for bad choices gets him kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than a day. Nax and three other wash-outs are due to head back to Earth on a one-way ticket until a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and the others barely make it out, the only witnesses to the crime as well as the perfect scapegoats. Now, Nax and this unlikely, ragtag group have to work together long enough to avoid capture, execute a dangerous heist to clear their names, and spread the truth about what happened. Release date: December 18th

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Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper
 Kerri Maniscalco
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction
Version: Hardback
Page Count: 326
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Yay, feminism!
Recommended Readers: Gothic readers and fans of mystery with a dash of horror
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I have been on such a journey with Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. When I first cracked open the book, I had low expectations, but it managed to surprised me with its keen heroine, Audrey Rose Wadsworth, and how delightfully descriptive it was with Victorian England’s way of handling cadavers. Throw in the Jack the Ripper mystery, and this was set to be a magnificent choice for Halloween-time reading.

But then things took a turn for the disappointing, and it all started with the introduction of Thomas Cresswell.

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Book Review: And I Darken

and i darken

Title: And I Darken
 Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 512
Publisher: Ember
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Feminism, LGBT characters, POC characters
Recommended Readers: Those interested in a slow-build, female Vlad the Impaler retelling
Rating: ★★★★☆

I read And I Darken by Kiersten White with @dearjenna for our Femme Trash bookclub, and I was happily surprised by it.

The historical figure Vlad the Impaler and the Dracula legend based off him is one of my favorites, so I was worried about how changing him into a female character would go. (This is purely for selfish reasons as I have quite a crush on Vlad, vampire version mostly but historical figure, too.)

But I’m happy to report that Ladislav “Lada” Dragwlya was an incredible character, and this book was an impressive and intricate historical retelling that’s just getting started.

White’s writing style was particularly refreshing because it never once became flowery or dipped into purple prose to make the events of the novel seem more beautiful or profound than they were. Instead, White’s style is blunt but with an edge you didn’t realize had cut you until you realize the full impact of what you just read is saying:

As the baby latched on with surprising fierceness, the nurse offered her own prayer.
Let her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly.

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Most Anticipated Book Releases – June 2018

The first of June is here, and you know what that means: a new month for book releases!

What does the first month of summer have in store for us? Plenty, but these are the books I’m most interested in, and I hope you are, too!

AThousandBeginningsAndEndingsI don’t normally gravitate to anthologies, but I shrieked with delight when I saw this one. Compiled by We Need Diverse Books, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is a collection of mythology, fairy tale, and folklore stories by East and South Asian authors such as Roshani Chokshi, Cindy Pon, Julie Kagawa, and E. C. Myers. (Can I get an #OwnVoices, ya’ll?)

Being a Westerner myself, I recognize that Western storytelling has its own structure that gets tiring and predictable; Eastern storytelling structure is so different and refreshing by comparison. Can’t wait to read about all these trickster immortals, starcrossed lovers, and battles of wits.

Release date: June 26th

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Book Review: The Valiant

the valiant

Title: The Valiant
 Lesley Livingston
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 372
Publisher: Razorbill
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Female gladiators
Recommended Readers: Only those who want an extremely watered-down gladiator experience
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I picked up The Valiant by Lesley Livingston, not due to the merits of the book itself, but because I saw the cover of its sequel, The Defiant, and thought it looked super friggin’ cool. “Let’s give this series a shot,” I said. “It’ll be fun,” I said.

Oh, past me. So young, so innocent.

The Valiant follows a warrior princess named Fallon, who is captured by Roman slavers and sold to a ludus owned by Julius Caesar, her nation’s conquerer. The plot has a little more involved, but this is the only part that was executed…semi-decently.

Okay, look, I admit it. I love gladiator stuff. The Starz show, Spartacus, has become a recent obsession for me. However, despite my love for the show, I also recognize that (probably a lot of it) is an extreme, full of Hollywood glitz, glam, and shock-value, that also revels on not having to answer at all to the FCC.

If Spartacus is on one end of the spectrum, then The Valiant can be placed firmly on the other end: the boring, unrealistic end.

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