The Nemesis: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*The Nemesis is the final book in Kincaid’s Diabolic trilogy. This review contains spoilers for books one and two. Start at the beginning with The Diabolic*

The Nemesis by S. J. KincaidNemesis has lived as a Diabolic bound to the young elite Sidonia. She has forged alliances and friendships as often as she has watched them crumble. She has been an empress and traveled across the space and time to earn her personhood.

But at her core Nemesis wonders if she is still merely a Diabolic–a creature whose love is possessive, ferocious, and all-consuming; a creature crafted for violence.

Three years ago Tyrus shocked the galaxy when he killed Nemesis and set himself on a path of destruction and debauchery poised to bring the entire empire to its knees.

Very few people know that Nemesis survived her would-be assassination and all of them want to use her. Blinded by rage at her own betrayal, Nemesis is determined to exact revenge against those who have wronged her.

In her hunt for vengeance, Nemesis may also find her humanity but only if she’s willing to truly look at everything that has transpired to bring her to this point in The Nemesis (2020) by S. J. Kincaid.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Nemesis is the final book in Kincaid’s Diabolic trilogy. This review contains spoilers for books one and two. Start at the beginning with The Diabolic and The Empress.

It’s always hard to review the end of a series without revealing too much. Kincaid does an excellent job of tying things together while continuing to expand the world both as Nemesis travels through the system and as she learns more about the history of the empire.

The Nemesis covers a surprisingly long span of time given the book’s fast pacing as Nemesis works with friends and unlikely allies to try and save the empire from itself as Tyrus continues to debase both himself and the ruling elite.

The Nemesis is everything I wanted for this series conclusion. Touching on politics, social norms, and public perception versus reality, this book is truly a book of our times. The Nemesis is the perfect conclusion to a favorite series. A must read for anyone looking for a splashy space opera that will leave them picking their jaw up off the floor.

Possible Pairings: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Mirage by Somaiya Daud, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, Proxy by Alex London, Legend by Marie Lu, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Birthmarked by Caragh M.O’Brien, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Scythe by Neal Shusterman, Impostors by Scott Westerfeld, And I Darken by Kiersten White, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

September 2020 Reading Tracker

Books I Read:

  1. Fable by Adrienne Young
  2. Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (kindle)
  3. Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein (reread)
  4. No One Here is Lonely by Sarah Everett
  5. Or What You Will by Jo Walton
  6. Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly
  7. Eventide by Sarah Goodman
  8. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (audio)
  9. Star Daughter by Shevta Thakrar
  10. Richard III by William Shakespeare (audio)
  11. A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe
  12. Killing November by Adriana Mather
  13. Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh (audio)
  14. The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
  15. Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa Albert (kindle)

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books Bought:

  1. The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi (signed preorder)

ARCs Received:

  1. Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez (requested)
  2. Eventide by Sarah Goodman (requested)

You can also see what I read in August.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue: A Review

“The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. They are fickle, unsteady as moonlight on water, or shadows in a storm. If you insist on calling them, take heed: be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price. And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab1714, France: Adeline LaRue grows up learning about the old gods. She makes small offerings here and there, hoping for something bigger than the life she can see forming around herself in her small village. As she gets older, she begins to understand that the longer you walk, the fewer chances you have to change your path–something Addie is still desperate to do even as she feels time slipping through her fingers.

After offering everything she values, after praying far too long, one of the old gods finally answers long after dark. A bargain is struck.

A soul seems like a small thing to barter for more time but this deal has a catch. Addie will live forever but she cannot leave anything behind–no physical mark and, even more painful, no memory.

Over the centuries Addie learns the limits and loopholes of her bargain–her curse–ways to leave traces if not marks, inspiration if not memories, and ways to survive in a world that will always forget her. But even after three hundred years Addie is unprepared when she meets Henry–a young man in a secluded bookstore in New York City who remembers her name in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (2020) by V. E. Schwab.

Find it on Bookshop.

Schwab’s latest standalone fantasy may be her best work yet.

Through a multi-faceted narrative, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue explores themes of creativity and the weight of expectation (or lack thereof). This book is filled with well-drawn characters and thoughtful commentary on art and inspiration and what it really means to leave a mark on your piece of the world.

Evocative prose and detailed descriptions bring both the cities of Addie’s past and New York City vividly to life and lend a strong sense of place to this story that spans centuries.

With her aggressive resilience and optimism, Addie is a timeless character readers will always want to cheer on and, especially now, she’s the exact kind of protagonist we all need and deserve. Despite the bargain she has struck, I can guarantee Addie is nothing if not memorable.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is an empowering, perfectly plotted fantasy that subverts and defies expectations. A must read.

Possible Pairing: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Week in Review: September 26: Quarantine Week 28: In which I am exhausted

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I’ve been trying to not stew in negativity this week but it’s so damn hard. Every time I get a handle on literally anything, some other area of my life seems to fall apart right on schedule. I know no one is getting ahead because it’s a horrible global pandemic and everything is awful, but I’d still like to have one small win and one area that isn’t actively on fire. Just one. Just for a little while.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth NixThings are changing in London in 1983. Some of the changes are ones you might recognize while others in this slightly alternate London are, appropriately, slightly different.

Things are changing for eighteen-year-old Susan Arkshaw too as she travels to London to try to find her father–a man she has never met–only to cross paths with the left-handed Merlin St. Jacques and, by extension, the rest of his eccentric family.

The St. Jacques clan has always kept London’s monsters, goblins, and other eldritch creatures in check and grounded in the Old World through a combination of magic, research for the right-handed of the family, brute force for the left-handed, and it seems in Merlin’s case through raw charisma as well. But the St. Jacques clan also has to make a living. So they sell books in the New World of modern London as well, as one does.

Susan isn’t sure how to deal with Merlin’s outrageous good looks or his even more outrageous flirting. Worse, she seems to be caught up in an Old World struggle that has been building for years–one that Merlin has been investigating in relation to his mother’s murder.

With help from his right-handed sister, Vivien, Merlin and Susan will have to follow Susan’s scant clues to find her father and determine Susan’s role in this Old World conflict before it bleeds into New World London and tears its unique booksellers apart in The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (2020) by Garth Nix.

Find it on Bookshop.

Witty banter and high stakes battles contrast well with bigger questions of what constitutes the greater good in a time when both magic and the modern world are rapidly evolving even as the booksellers themselves may be stagnating after years of complacency. If another urban fantasy novel has ever had such a painfully realistic depiction of shoddy institutional management, I haven’t read it.

Susan is a pragmatic, no-nonsense heroine from her worldview down to her buzz cut and Doc Martins who is quick to adapt as her entire world begins to shift beneath her feet. Merlin is, by contrast, flamboyant and whimsical with a larger than life personality to match his massive wardrobe fit for every occasion with snappy suits, nice dresses, and everything in between including multiple weapons. As the final point of this trio Vivien adds some much-needed practicality and steals every scene she’s in.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London artfully subverts traditional gender roles both in society and within the fantasy genre with a story that defies as many expectations as its characters. Very fun. Very British. Very 1980s. Very much recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

Author Interview: Roshani Chokshi on The Silvered Serpents

Roshani Chokshi author photo, credit: Aman SharmaThe Silvered Serpents is the stunning and often shocking follow up to The Gilded Wolves–a historical fantasy filled with magic, action, and more than a few mysteries. Set not long after the events of book one, this installment once again follows Séverin and his team this time as they hunt for The Divine Lyrics–a way to stop the rogue lost house and also chase immortality and prestige themselves. Roshani was already one of my favorite authors but who knew you could love a favorite even more as a series continues. I’m very happy to have Roshani here answering some questions about this latest installment.

Miss Print: The Silvered Serpents is the second book in your Gilded Wolves trilogy–a series partially inspired by National Treasure and Tomb Raider. When you started writing the first book, did you already know what would be in store for the characters in book two? Did anything change after you had finished The Gilded Wolves and started working on this story?

Roshani Chokshi: Yes! Before I started writing the first book, I had a pretty clear idea of how things were going to end up for the characters. That said, I think the emotional balance between them changed a lot more as I started working on TSS. At its heart, it really is a story of love, and it was both rewarding and painful to reexamine each of those relationship dynamics and see what would be different.

Miss Print: This series starts in 1889 and in this book, as the beautiful cover hints, we see the action move from Paris to Russia as the team explores the sprawling and magical Sleeping Palace. I was struck by how much forging magic readers see in this installment. How did you decide what kinds of magical creations to include? Did you have a favorite forged object here or anything that didn’t make the final cut?

Roshani Chokshi: Most fictional magic systems come down to whether the magic functions as an art or a science. Can it be learned or does it first require innate ability that can then be shaped? For me, I really wanted to write a magic system that was both artistic in practice and in nature. Because Forging is tied so closely to someone’s will, it can be powerful, but more often than naught, it’s an expression of whimsy. Winter and whimsy is a joyous feast for the imagination, so I had a lot of fun coming up with objects and ways to interact with the setting. At every stage, I wanted each piece of Forging to enhance the mystery of their setting, and I hope that shines.

Miss Print: These books feature one of my favorite ensemble casts and I love getting chapters following each of them as they move through different parts of the story. We’ve discussed before who was the most fun and the hardest to write. But with everything that’s been going on in the world, I have to ask: How would the team manage during quarantine?

Roshani Chokshi: I think as long as they were in L’Eden…they’d be fine. Hypnos would probably stage musical theatre performances that, halfway through, would become a surprise burlesque performance and scandalize everyone. Laila would be conquering sourdough starters. Zofia would be blowing things up in the backyard. Enrique would be holed up in the library, and Séverin would be running back and forth between all of them, making sure they want for nothing.

Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about your next project? Any news on your Santa origin story?

Roshani Chokshi: Lately, I’ve been frantically revising the third and final book in the Gilded Wolves trilogy and also wrapping up edits on the fourth book in the Pandava quintet. It’s bizarre to me that I’m nearing the finishing line for both series when they’ve lived in my head since 2015?? What is time?? After that, there’s a story that’s been rattling about in my brain. Something about Bluebeard. I’m not sure what it wants to be yet. And I am *STILL* noodling the Santa origin story haha. I need to figure out the magic of it all…but I’ve been jotting down bits and pieces of dialogue and I have to say…I am endlessly delighted with how it might turn out.

Thanks again to Rosh for taking the time to chat with me.

You can see more about Roshani and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of The Silvered Serpents here on the blog.

The Silvered Serpents: A Review

“What is magic but a science we cannot fathom?”

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani ChokshiMonths ago Séverin and his crew beat the remnants of the exiled Fallen House back into hiding. But the victory came at a steep cost. A loss that has left Séverin and his friends reeling and weakened the once unbreakable bonds between them.

Determined to never lose anything–or anyone–ever again, Séverin follows clues to the Fallen House’s Sleeping Palace in Russia. Once there he believes he can uncover their greatest treasure: The Divine Lyrics, a book that is said to bestow godlike powers to whoever uses it and may also unite the Babel Fragments spread across the globe that make Forging magic possible.

While Séverin chases invulnerability to protect those he cares about, Laila hopes the book might save her before time runs out. Historian Enrique thinks the high profile recovery will earn him the respect that eludes him. And scientist Zofia wants to prove that she can take care of herself even if she sometimes needs help understanding other people.

After so many years working together, so much time trying to prove themselves, Séverin and the others will all have to choose what matters most and how far they are willing to go in pursuit of it in The Silvered Serpents (2020) by Roshani Chokshi.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Silvered Serpents is the second book in Chokshi’s Gilded Wolves trilogy.

Chokshi expertly builds tension and suspense in this sequel as the team delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding the Fallen House, the secret of the Divine Lyrics, and the Lost Muses who may be able to tap into the artifact’s power. The theme of who is able and allowed to shape history continues to be a major underpinning of this series as all of the characters question how best to make their own voices heard in a world that often refuses to truly see them.

Chapters alternating between Séverin and the rest of the team explore their varied motivations and subplots offering many insights into each character while moving inexorably toward the novel’s shocking conclusion that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the final installment.

The Silvered Serpents is the sleeker, smarter, sharper, and bloodier sequel fans of this series deserve. Highly recommended.

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Roshani Chokshi discussing this book!

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, The Reader by Traci Chee, Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Enchantée by Gita Trelease

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the February 2020 issue of School Library Journal as a starred review*

Week in Review: September 19: Quarantine Week 27: In Which I Consider High-Quality Connections

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What September releases are you excited about? 📚 If Grown is on your list, I can confirm it won’t disappoint: 📚 Enchanted Jones thought she had everything figured out. She isn’t what anyone would call happy at her new school, but she makes it work. She has swim team and she has her best friend Gabriella. With Gab’s help Enchanted auditions for BET’s version of American Idol. It doesn’t go well. 📚 But it does bring her face to face with legendary R&B artist Korey Fields who is even hotter in person and could be Enchanted’s own ticket to stardom. It starts with secret texts and flirting. Then there are singing lessons and an invitation to go on tour. 📚 It ends with Enchanted beaten bloody and Korey Fields dead. 📚 Enchanted wishes she could forget the events leading up to Korey’s death. But she can’t do that any more than she can remember what happened that night. 📚 Did Enchanted plunge the knife into Korey’s chest? Was she the only one who wanted him dead? With more questions than answers Enchanted will have to piece together the pieces before Korey’s livid fans–or the police–do it for her with Enchanted as the culprit in Grown (2020) by Tiffany D. Jackson. 📚 Head to my blog to check out my full review (link in bio). 📚 #InstaReader #BeautifulBooks #BookReviews #BooksToRead #BookstagramFeatures #BookishLife #AllTheBooks #UnitedBookstagram #BookPost #ForTheLoveOfBooks #ReadersOfInsta #BookBlogging #Bookstagramit #LibrariansOfInstagram #ReadingLove #BookstaFeatures #ReadersGonnaRead #WhatToRead #BookStyle #Booktography #BookRecommendations #ReadersOfIg #NeverNotReading #BookPhotoChallenge #BookNookstagram #Bibliophiles #BookAesthetic #Grown #ReadGrown #TiffanyDJackson

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How My Week Went:

Pandemic life has been hard. I miss my friends. I miss traveling freely. I’m tired of being told my choice to self-isolate for as long as possible because of my mom is irrational or something I’ll get over when I have no choice anymore–especially from friends who are supposed to take my side. There’s probably a whole blog post about that but I’m so tired of talking about it that I don’t want to also write about it.

I reread Joy at Work last week for my ongoing work book club. I’ve been thinking a lot about what the book calls “high-quality connections” which basically boils down to mutual friendships. Again, there’s a whole blog post worth of stuff to unpack there but for now I’m thinking about what it means when it becomes clear that I am putting more time and care into a relationship (with friends but also with coworkers) than the other person. It is not a good feeling and it is something I’m still figuring out but for now the first step is acknowledging it happening. Which I’m working on.

We need to talk about J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter, and why it’s time to say goodbye to both

J. K. Rowling, best known as the author of the popular Harry Potter books, is a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (abbreviated to TERF). This isn’t the first time she’s been problematic and likely won’t be the last, but it is the one that has seen her escalating the most.

You can read more about the TERF rise in Katelyn Burns’ article on Vox. In it she describes TERF groups thus: “They alternate among several theories that all claim that trans women are really men, who are the ultimate oppressors of women. […] Above all else, their ideology doesn’t allow for trans people to have self-definition or any autonomy over their gender expression.”

Rowling also writes adult mysteries under the pen name Robert Galbraith–a pen name that is coincidentally shared by the man who helped create conversion therapy in the 1950s. Transphobia has shown up in Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series before. It goes even further in the latest book where Rowling/Galbraith frames the entire case around a male killer who dresses as a woman to kill his victims. Rowling doubling down in this way has led to a lot of justified backlash on Twitter as fans continue to try to reconcile these hateful ideas coming from the author of a beloved series.

Before going further, we have to all be very clear on something: Trans women are women. Trans men are men. This is not negotiable. It is not a multi-sided issue. Arguing anything else is hurtful, harmful, and unacceptable.

At a certain point it is no longer possible to separate a creative work from its creator. When a creator actively uses their platform and reach to make the world a worse place, we have to say enough is enough. There has to be a line after which point we cut ties with both the creator and the creative work from which the creator is benefiting while hurting people.

Which is why it’s time to stop supporting J. K. Rowling. It’s time to stop supporting Robert Galbraith. It’s time to say goodbye to Harry Potter.

I know this is hard ask for people who consider Harry Potter a formative series, but it’s time to let it go. I’m coming from a place of privilege here as I have already moved past the series and never considered Hogwarts my home, but if you want to support trans people and trans rights, you cannot continue supporting an author who does not.

Here’s everything I’m doing as a reader, an influencer/content creator, and a librarian to do just that (including some steps you can take yourself):

As a Reader:

Few things are as intrinsically tied to pop culture and the zeitgeist now in the way Harry Potter is, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find alternatives and decide collectively to use them instead. No more asking about Hogwarts houses, no more guessing a person’s patronus.

  • I will no longer read or buy any book Rowling puts out under any pen name.
  • I will not watch anything Rowling has been involved with including adaptations of her books under any pen name.
  • I will not engage with any Harry Potter related media including licensed online sites, games, or stories.
  • I will not buy licensed merchandise. (Many independent sellers are reckoning with this themselves as they decide if they will fill the hole in the fandom by selling unlicensed merch that will not line Rowling’s pockets.)

As an Influencer/Content Creator:

Blogs and social media are interesting things because they are living documents. In the past I have, like so many others, read and recommended Harry Potter. I will not be doing that moving forward.

  • I will not include Harry Potter merchandise in my photo posts.
  • I will not cite any of Rowling’s books as read-a-likes.
  • While I support and respect the fandom trying to come to terms with this turn of events, I will no longer participate in it on any level.

As a Librarian:

It’s important to remember that librarians provide access to information, they do not gatekeep or restrict access to information. It would be unethical and against everything libraries stand for to restrict access to any of Rowling’s books. But that does not mean I have to give them extra space in my work as a librarian–something that Rowling has never needed given the meteoric popularity of her books and something she decidedly no longer deserves.

  • I will, like all librarians, keep Rowling’s books on shelves for patrons who need or want them. I will make sure copies are in good, readable condition.
  • I will not actively recommend any of her books to patrons who ask me for reading suggestions.
  • I will not include any of Rowling’s books in book displays or book lists I create.
  • I will not cite her books as read-a-likes for anything instead giving space to other titles.
  • I will not participate in any programming tied to or related to J. K. Rowling or Harry Potter.

The Book Blogosphere, Book Twitter, Bookstagram, and library communities are all filled with so many passionate, creative people. I urge all of you to channel that creativity elsewhere. It’s time to say goodbye to Hogwarts and let Harry celebrate his birthday alone while we, as a community, embrace other creators than J. K. Rowling. Ones who are so much more deserving of our love now and creators who continue to deserve our support and respect so much more.

The Queen of Nothing: A Review

*The Queen of Nothing is the second book in Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy. To avoid spoilers, start at the beginning with The Cruel Prince.*

“We have lived in our armor for so long, you and I. And now I am not sure if either of us knows how to remove it.”

The Queen of Nothing by Holly BlackJude has spent years learning strategy and how to survive as a mortal in the High Court of Faerie. She has spied, killed, and fought for every scrap of power. But taking power is easier than keeping it.

After trusting Cardan for one last gambit, Jude is the mortal Queen of Faerie–a title no one acknowledges and one that does her little good while exiled in the mortal world.

Betrayed and furious, Jude is keen to return to Faerie and reclaim what is hers by right, not to mention her sorely damaged dignity. The opportunity comes sooner than expected when Jude’s sister Taryn needs her identical twin’s help to survive the aftermath of her own betrayals and lies.

When Jude returns, war is brewing in Elfhame. After years teaching herself to be a warrior and a spy, Jude will now have to learn how to be a queen and embrace her humanity to save the only place that has ever felt like home in The Queen of Nothing (2020) by Holly Black.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Queen of Nothing is the final book in Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy. To avoid spoilers, start at the beginning with The Cruel Prince.

It’s always hard to talk about the end of a series without revealing too much. Black pulls no punches in this fast-paced conclusion filled with surprising twists, unexpected reunions, and even some redemption arcs.

Jude continues to be a dynamo narrator filling the story with grim observations and shrewd strategy as she tries to keep Elhame from falling into enemy hands. After watching Jude embrace her strength and ruthlessness, it’s a powerful shift as she is forced to instead embrace her mortality and compassion to succeed this time.

The Queen of Nothing is the perfect conclusion to a favorite series. Every character gets exactly what they deserve in the best possible way. A must read for fans, of course, and a trilogy not to be missed for anyone who enjoys their fantasy with healthy doses of strategy and fairies. Highly recommend.

Possible Pairings: Legendary by Stephanie Garber, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel