Hi all! I haven't gotten to read much lately, so no new reviews :(
Classes are really busy for me this month, and I've been trying to keep afloat without sacrificing my health. As you may know, that's going... mediocre at best for my hobbies and personal joy. I'm hoping that starting in May the situation will improve, and of course over the years I've learned that sometimes it's okay to take a break and relax.
Blogging is intense! I usually spend at least 10 hours per week on this space, and dedicating those hours to something else can be difficult for me since I love to write here. All of us face burnout at some point (I'll probably write a bit about that soon) and we learn what schedule works best for us and our audiences. Some things have to go--this month it's been the blog and bookstagram, next month it could be Goodreads updates and Twitter, etc. I've come to terms with this remaining a hobby for me. I'll never make money here (because nobody pays bloggers, even though we definitely deserve it) so I have to dedicate my time accordingly.
I've also been spending a lot of time outside. Seeing the sky at least once a day, going on walks and bike rides, getting the mail--all that is brilliant for my mental health, unsurprisingly. You know I live in Massachusetts, so I'll share that I took a trip out to Western MA last weekend (for private reasons) and got to drive the scenic route and visit some local bookshops. That was so much fun, and I picked out some new reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso, and Just Our Luck by Julia Walton. I also visited a comic shop for the first time! I'm now the proud owner of 3 new Wonder Woman comics, and a copy of a comic that features the Doctor's first appearance in American comics. That one is literally 40 years old and I'm excited to (gently) read it. Maybe once I'm more of a connoisseur, I'll branch out in my reviews on this blog!
Today's post is my tour stop for the Pride and Premeditation blog tour! Follow along with the schedule here, and be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of my post. Thank you to TBR & Beyond for choosing me, and HarperTeen for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Book and its Author
Perfect for fans of the Lady Janies and Stalking Jack the Ripper, the first book in the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries series is a clever retelling of Pride and Prejudice that reimagines the iconic settings, characters, and romances in a thrilling and high-stakes whodunit.
When a scandalous murder shocks London high society, seventeen-year-old aspiring lawyer Lizzie Bennet seizes the opportunity to prove herself, despite the interference of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious firm Pemberley Associates.
Convinced the authorities have imprisoned the wrong person, Lizzie vows to solve the murder on her own. But as the case—and her feelings for Darcy—become more complicated, Lizzie discovers that her dream job could make her happy, but it might also get her killed.
Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Indigo
Tirzah Price grew up on a farm in Michigan, where she read every book she could get her hands on and never outgrew her love for YA fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a former bookseller and librarian. Now, she’s a contributing editor at Book Riot, where she can be found recommending books on the site, newsletters, podcasts, and social media accounts. When she’s not writing, reading, or thinking about YA books, she splits her time between experimenting in the kitchen and knitting enough socks to last the fierce Michigan winters.
Tirzah is pronounced TEER-zuh. Pronouns are she/her.
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Photo credit - Tab London
A cute historical fiction retelling/mystery where Lizzie Bennet is reimagined as an intrepid future barrister--inhibited only by the patriarchy. She sets off on a mission to solve a murder to convince her father that she can take a job at the family's law offices. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Austen novel, and I love reading/watching retellings of it. I enjoyed Lizzie's escapades, and this book is a perfect afternoon diversion.
The mystery kept me guessing until the end--the plot involves a good bit of danger (as it should) and more than once, Lizzie found herself in a bind. Price's writing moves the story well, and I liked the pacing. I finished in a day because it's on the shorter side, but there's a perfect balance of excitement and cozy mystery that you could put it down and come back later.
My favorite aspect was the plot thread about Lizzie's dreams of becoming a barrister. Being a Regency novel, she's up against men taking credit for her work and not believing she's as capable of the hard jobs. It's entertaining to watch Lizzie turn her gender into an advantage in some situations to extract information or do some detective work as a way of countering that. I don't want to spoil the book for you, but this thread has such a satisfying resolution! Price did a great job with that.
The classic Lizzie-Darcy banter is out in full force as Darcy works at a rival firm, and is also trying to prove the innocence of their client. Rivals to lovers is fun to read, and their slow realization that they may be something more is well-earned. I liked that the romance took a backseat to the mystery, though. There are so many Austen adaptations out there for a romance main plot, but this one is truly original for the thriller aspects.
4/5 stars to Pride and Premeditation. Links above for you to order your copy!
TW: racism, incest, antisemitism
This is a short statement regarding Emily A. Duncan et al. If you’ve been on book Twitter earlier this week, you probably know they’ve been facing up to past actions, including bullying fellow authors in Slack chats, attacking victims of CSA and incest, antisemitism, and participating in some really heinous things. Apparently this has been passed around through whisper networks for years, but I had no idea. Consequently I read and loved their novels, publishing numerous posts about them and sharing content on social media.
Complicit in this behavior are Rory Power and Christine Lynn Herman, whose books I have also publicized in the same manner.
I am shocked, to say the least.
By no means am I a public figure, but I do owe it to you all to address this given my previous support of this friend group, Emily above all. I cannot accept any of their apologies or judge their sincerity, since I am not an offended party or a victim here and therefore am completely removed from the situation. The real victims here have been Jewish authors, authors of color, and queer authors, who already face racism and bias in publishing every day. Please support the books of Rin Chupeco, Hafsah Faizal, Ava Reid, and Ashley Shuttleworth. Doubtlessly I am missing names here, but I’ve seen their accounts specifically during this past week.
As a blogger, I make it my priority to support marginalized authors and as a QWOC, I am incredibly disappointed in Emily et al. Please know that I am not a mindless consumer and I do think critically about whose content I consume. That being said, I also don’t believe in retconning my feelings about books and authors. I have never been so personally invested in books written by bullies in the community--when I say I adored their novels, you know I am being honest because you have read my reviews and promotion. Those reviews and posts have to stay up. They are date stamped, and were 100% true to my feelings at the time. I believe in honesty, and I can’t curate my past feed to match every new development regarding whose behavior has been revealed as reprehensible.
I will say this: just as I do for other authors whose behavior and creed I find not to match my standards, Emily’s books will no longer appear on my feed until such a time as I deem appropriate. That could be never (it certainly is for some others) or there could be a time when they truly own and make reparations for their actions. Either way, don’t take this as an indication of my forgiveness. This isn’t that. This is me saying not yet. Me saying I don’t condone this in our community. As a public voice, I am capable of providing a consequence for Emily’s actions, albeit a small one, and it is the termination of my public support of their work.
I will be adding a disclaimer to my reviews to clarify that at the time they were written, I had no knowledge of Emily's behavior behind-the-scenes.
I welcome any and all thoughts on the matter. Please let me know if you feel this is insufficient given my past enthusiasm, or if there is anything else you would like to see me do or acknowledge. I don’t bow to demands, but I am open to constructive conversation.
Thank you for reading. If I recommended you one of Emily’s books and you were affected by the subject matter or their actions, I am truly sorry for putting this in your path. Again, please feel free to reach out.
Sorry for my absence! I should’ve put something up for you last week when I realized updating my computer would sever my Evernote access--that’s one of my most recommended apps for bloggers, and I use it to write and store all of my posts. Luckily, everything’s back now, so I’m going to be retroactively posting a few end-of-month things for March and beginning-of-month things for April soon. Fear not, I’ll round up links on my social media so they won’t get lost amongst my newer posts. That’s my Tuesday’s Two (I guess the second item is yay!!! Rule of Wolves is out today, and Shadow and Bone is coming out so so soon!!)
Thank you to the author for sharing an ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Iris Oxtabee has managed to navigate the tricky world of unspoken social interactions by reading everything from neuroscience journals to Wikipedia articles. Science has helped her fit the puzzle pieces into an understandable whole, and she’s sure there’s nothing it can’t explain. Love, for example, is just chemistry.
Her best friend Seth, however, believes love is one of life’s beautiful and chaotic mysteries, without need for explanation. Iris isn’t one to back down from a challenge; she’s determined to prove love is really nothing more than hormones and external stimuli. After all, science has allowed humanity to understand more complex mysteries than that, and Iris excels at science.
The perfect way to test her theory? Get the popular and newly-single Theo Grant, who doesn’t even know Iris exists, to ask her to prom. With prom just two weeks away, Iris doesn’t have any time to waste, so she turns her keen empirical talents and laser-focus attention to testing her theory.
But will proving herself correct cause her friendship with Seth—and the tantalizing possibility for something more—to become the failed experiment?
This sweet spring romance is perfect for anyone seeking a fluffy YA contemporary with an experimental side. Iris Oxtabee believes love is all chemicals, and her understanding of neurochemistry and evolutionary biology is all she needs to get a prom date. Of course, life gets in the way.
I loved this one! Let me start by saying I love the neurodiversity rep here—Iris has NVLD, a learning disorder that affects her understanding of social cues. I don’t share her diagnosis, but have a condition that can also affect socializing and induce anxiety. We don’t get a lot of neurodiverse rep in YA romance, and it’s something I always love seeing more of. At the end, there was a particular plot point that relied on Iris's humiliation which I didn't love, but LaBar handled it very well and it's clear to readers no joke was had at Iris's expense for that. Her scientific approach made her an interesting narrator, and the dramatic irony from some of her obliviousness to her own romantic attraction was actually kind of sweet. She made some poor choices (experimenting on other people, for a start) but Iris had so much heart that I couldn't help but root for her.
Iris's science experiments were a favorite part of mine! I'm a future scientist, and I’m actually taking some classes related to her research right now, so it was doubly interesting for me because of that. I know non-scientists may not love the mentions of hormones and evolved chemical responses to stimuli, but I found them charming (and educational). I don’t entirely believe Iris is right—love can be a spiritual and emotional experience not entirely quantifiable—but the concept of the book hooked me from the start and I was eager to see where Iris’s conclusions led. If you liked Meredith Goldstein's Chemistry Lessons, you'll like Prom Theory. Check out my STEM YA list for more recs!
Believe me, it’s hard to spoil a romance novel, so let me just say that I was swooning for the love interest. I think you can tell from the synopsis that this is a childhood friends to lovers novel. Seth is the absolute sweetest, and clearly cares so much for Iris. All their little habits, and the way they’re so protective towards each other made every page they weren’t together truly angst-filled.
Esther, their other best friend / occasional third wheel, was so much fun and a great foil to Iris. I liked that her side plot had depth and she wasn't dismissed for her knowledge of the stereotypically "feminine" things that Iris dislikes.
Overall, I'm giving Prom Theory 4.5/5 stars as an adorable new romance release which you should definitely pick up! Out today!
Terminal Tours has a new blog tour sign up out, and we're so excited!! Come sign up for Dustborn by Erin Bowman!! This postapocalyptic novel is sure to be magical, and we're looking for a selection of US and International book bloggers to participate.
Delta of Dead River sets out to rescue her family from a ruthless dictator rising to power in the Wastes and discovers a secret that will reshape her world in this postapocalyptic Western mashup for fans of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl.
Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it—even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her.
Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted—perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.
Thank you to Abrams for sharing an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Apologies for late review!
The first book in an epic and romantic YA series following the fictionalized descendants of the only officially recognized empress regent of China
Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost.
Heiress Apparently is a sweet new contemporary novel centering Gemma's relationship with her family--previously shrouded in mystery that evaporates when she travels to Beijing.
I loved Gemma and Alyssa's relationship. They're strangers at the beginning of the book, but as they learn more about their family they grow closer and it's so adorable. As they acknowledge, they're more than cousins--they're sisters. They share a glamorous heritage which Gemma knows little about but Alyssa is eager to share. I'm really hoping the next book in the series is about Alyssa! The ending moments especially... I don't have much to say other than it just made me feel all the warm and fuzzy feelings. I was just so happy for Gemma, because I'd grown to care for her so much throughout the novel.
I hesitate to call this found family, because technically Gemma is learning about her blood family, but it operates on a similar premise. So much of the novel finds Gemma bringing people together and expanding her family from the small group she'd had in the US. I also enjoyed her narration through the hard time she faces as a Chinese-American and not feeling fully accepted by either community. This really resonated with me because as an Indian-American, I feel the exact same way. Not Indian enough for some, not American enough for others. It can be so difficult to be part of a diasporic experience, and even more so in Gemma's case where she's got this pressure on her as an actress to represent millions of people on the silver screen. I couldn't imagine how tough that must be--but I don't have to, since Ma narrates it brilliantly in the novel.
There's also a bit of a romance! It's not quite a Romeo-and-Juliet situation (if you want R&J set in China please check out These Violent Delights) but there IS a family feud and many complicated feelings. Love interest Eric is interested in sustainable fashion (to the benefit of our girl Gemma--I would LOVE to see fan art of her in that suit!) and protecting his sister Mimi from being manipulated by Alyssa (no spoilers, but that's so far from the truth of what's going on). He's so sweet with Gemma, and just all-around amazing. I totally shipped them, and always hoped she'd break up with her jerk of an LA boyfriend to get with Eric instead.
Overall, I'm giving Heiress Apparently 4/5 stars for general adorableness and also being a wonderful permutation of the modern-royalty trope. Will definitely be recommending this one in the future.
Bit of a busy week for me, what with my return to class and all that. HOWEVER!! I've just received some incredible news and y'all... I'm really happy. I can't share for fear of compromising my privacy (which I value, despite cultivating online relationships with my readers and other bloggers), but please know that I'm elated and hopefully this opportunity lives up to its reputation. I've been blogging for five years, and I'm proud of everything this website has become--I love seeing the effort recognized by those outside the community and if I'm correct in my assumption that that's part of what led to my good news... well I'd be pleased.
In bookish news... nothing. I'm taking far more courses than I was earlier and much to my displeasure, that's led to a lack of time to read and write posts. Through the end of April I'll be quite occupied, so please forgive me for the lack of multiple reviews per week. I'm hoping to write up more Release Radar posts to show off the amazing releases happening this spring, but other than that I might be scarce.
A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.
For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.
#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:
#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.
The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…
This is one of the most interesting and original thrillers I've read in a while! It takes place over the course of a bank heist, and centers on Nora O'Malley (I loved her immediately). I checked The Girls I've Been out from the library with middling expectations and I've just been blown away by everything about it.
I'd hesitate to call Nora an unreliable narrator, since she's interested in telling the truth and unraveling past lies she's told her friends. The triple timelines make for an interesting read (and lengthen the book) as we see Nora's past lives, her arrival to Lee, and the bank heist simultaneously. This could be a lot to handle for a reader, but Sharpe uses short chapters to the best effect and I ended up enjoying her narration.
The con-woman angle was fresh. Nora's mother committed and permitted all kinds of abuse, which was horrifying to read about in the chapters where Nora explains some of the girls she's been. Sharpe includes a positive portrayal of talk therapy and mental health treatment, which I always take time to appreciate in a book. What was more interesting to me was the "lessons" she gained from those girls, and the creative action-packed sequences she leads. I couldn't put the book down once I'd started. This is both because it reads so fluidly I kept wanting to find out what's next, and also because the formatting led the 336 pages to fly by.
In terms of writing style and voice, I waffled between "into the drama" and "over it." A lot of Nora's narration was overblown, but as I became more invested in her backstory I began to understand why. Her struggles with identity and feeling comfortable in her new life were a central theme in the book and definitely merited some of the more overdramatic lines. What really made the book for me was the chapter sequencing and the sharp turns of the story.
Also just have to give a shoutout to Nora being bi--we have been BLESSED with this character. I love a good morally grey queer story and Tess Sharpe absolutely delivered. Her girlfriend Iris is the sweetest (with the best fashion sense) and her ex Wes deserves a whole book of his own. Their group dynamic is funny and heartfelt, an excellent counter to the high-octane violence of the heist.
5/5 stars for this dark, twisty story. I'm very intrigued and will definitely be buying a copy for myself soon.
Deep in the wood lives a witch queen and her eight tree siren daughters. For centuries they have harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow their ever-reaching kingdom of ash, birch, and oak.
Owen Merrick lives at the edge of the forest, mapping the stars for the king in his father's observatory. For years, he has resisted venturing over the garden wall, until one day he must enter the woods to find his missing sister. But one of the witch's tree siren daughters, Seren, decides to save his life instead of end it. Now, no matter how hard he tries, he can't stop thinking about her--the birch-bright hue of her skin and the way violets bloom in her hair. Every night, he goes into the wood to meet her, and their love for each other grows.
But when the constellations shift, the stars foretell an inevitable war between the witch queen and the king. With Seren compelled to fight for her mother, and Owen forced to join the king's army, they are plunged into the heart of a conflict that seemingly no one can win and that might destroy both their kingdoms forever.
The prose is EVERYTHING! That's the first (and almost only) intelligent thing I have to say about this novel. Every line was beautiful. I loved the switch between verse and prose as Seren works towards humanity. Her chapters alternate with Owen's as he describes life on the edge of the woods and she narrates being her "mother's youngest monster." This is the most poetic horror story/romance tale I've possibly ever read. Every sentence is a masterpiece, and I can appreciate all of it on a craft level. I especially loved what I labeled the "recall moments," where Owen would repeat lines of text from his observations about Seren or other powerful phrases.
We also get a gorgeous monster girl & scientist boy dynamic that I am living for. Seren is a very specific brand of nature horror--if you loved the body horror of Wilder Girls but wanted that book to be set in a fantasy world, then Heartless Wood is for you. Again, the magic of Meyer's writing only adds to this. Seren is so beautiful but so monstrous, and all intimately connected to the forest in such a visceral way. She's made of bark and sap, birch and violets. I was fascinated by all of her, just like Owen. Think Wicked Saints Nadya/Malachiasz but with less religion and more forest.
Into the Heartless Wood is an introspective book. There's just as much dedication to showing Seren and Owen growing together as the war between the witch queen and the king. I'd liken this to an enemies-to-lovers romance, but the problem those two face is that they recognize each other as kindred even when they should be enemies. I loved this pull against destiny as a plot device--I really rooted for them to be together and overcome the violence in their circumstances.
Maybe this wasn't the direct intention, but I also think the novel did a great job of portraying abuse. Seren and the Gwydden (her mother) have a twisted relationship based on the Gwydden's immense power and control over her tree siren daughters. Seren works so hard to overcome the doubt her mother sows, and to be more than she was born for. I have deep admiration for how Meyer tackled this narrative.
I'm giving Into the Heartless Wood 5/5 stars. It's an absolutely gorgeous novel that you'll want to crawl into forever.
*bug with my search button! I'll remove this text when it's fixed <3
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
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