Bearly a Lady: A Novella Review

Zelda had made peace (mostly) with transforming into a werebear once a month. Luckily she has her amazing vampire roommate and her dream job at a fashion magazine to balance that out. Then, of course, there’s her excellent wardrobe–if only more of it was werebear sized!

Things get complicated when Zelda has to juggle a date with with her high school crush Jake (alpha werewolf of Kensington) and the charms of Benedict the fae nobleman (and nephew of her boss) that she’s been assigned to bodyguard for two whole weeks. Then there’s Janine, Zelda’s longtime crush at work and maybe the one who could take Zelda’s almost perfect life to completely excellent in Bearly a Lady (2017) by Cassandra Khaw.

Khaw offers a frothy homage to chick lit and fantasy in this charmingly cute novella (part of the Book Smugglers Novella Initiative). Zelda’s first person narration is breezy, fun, and just the slightest bit madcap as her life goes from fairly mundane (for a werebear) to bearly (pun intended!) under control. Set over the course of a tumultuous week for Zelda Bearly a Lady offers a contained story with some fascinating world building.

I won’t give away too much about the OTP here but Zelda’s chemistry with her love interests throughout this novella is off the charts. After you finish the story, be sure to read Khaw’s short essay on her inspiration and influences. It’s a great take on how this author, previously known more for her horror efforts, turned her attention to chick lit and something a bit lighter.

Bearly a Lady is a lighthearted novella filled with an inclusive cast of characters, comedy and romance–highly recommended for anyone seeking a much-needed dose of escapism in these trying times.

I have been promised cuteness and werebears and vampires in this novella by Cassandra Khaw (from Book Smugglers Publishing). Based on the cover I am not disappointed! Excited to have this as my next read. đź’— Zelda had made peace (mostly) with transforming into a werebear once a month. Luckily she has her amazing vampire roommate and her dream job at a fashion magazine to balance that out. đź’— Things get complicated when Zelda is juggling a date with with her high school crush Jake (alpha werewolf of Kensington) and the charms of Benedict the fae nobleman (and nephew of her boss) that she's been assigned to bodyguard for two whole weeks. Then there's Janine, Zelda's longtime crush at work and maybe the one who could take Zelda's almost perfect life to completely excellent. đź’— #bookstagram #goodreads #instabook #instareads #bibliophile #books #reading #currentlyreading #amreading #bookworm #bookish #bookgram #booktography #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookphotography #books #bookstagramit #bspnovella #novella #werebear #fantasy #cassandrakhaw

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

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A Conjuring of Light: A Review

*A Conjuring of Light is the final book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic Series which begins with A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows. As such this review contains major spoilers for book one and two.*

“Life isn’t made of choices. It’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.”

“We don’t choose what we are, but we choose what we do.”

Once there were four Londons. Black London was consumed by magic a long time ago. White London will die without more magic. Grey London never had any magic. Then there’s Red London, the jewel of the Maresh Empire and a shining beacon of magic across its world. That magic is what makes Red London so beautiful; it’s what is threatening to destroy it as well.

An interloper from Black London is tearing its way through Red London leaving destruction and death in its wake. Kell is used to being alone and to thinking of himself as isolated thanks to his Antari blood but all of that changes when the only home he’s ever had and the only family that matters is threatened. But Kell can’t fight this battle alone. Not if he wants to win.

Lila has thrived in Red London leaving behind her life as a thief to pursue her dream of becoming a pirate. She made it through the magical competition of the Essen Tasch but not she has to learn to control her magic before it begins to control her.

Kell and Lila will have to use every spell and trick they know to face a new threat from Black London. Along the way they’ll rely on old friends like Kell’s brother Prince Rhy and uneasy allies like the mysterious Captain Alucard Emery. Even old enemies may become allies before the battle is over. To survive, to win, will take everything the Antari have to give and maybe even more in A Conjuring of Light (2017) by V. E. Schwab.

A Conjuring of Light is the final book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic Series which begins with A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows. As such this review contains major spoilers for book one and two.

A Conjuring of Light picks up shortly after book two. Everyone is in peril and trouble is brewing. The tension does not let up from there. At more than six hundred pages you would thing this book would feel bloated of slow. It doesn’t. Schwab’s story is perfectly paced to give this series the conclusion it deserves.

Written in third person this novel alternates perspective to follow all of the major characters that readers have come to know and love over the course of this series. Rhy is still struggling with what it means to be a prince without magic while also processing the way his life is now tied to Kell’s. Alucard is haunted by his past and not sure he can ever be free of it. Lila still has so much to learn about being an Antari and letting people love her instead of running away. Kell, similarly, is still struggling to define what family means for a man with no memory of his past. Does a past he can’t remember mean anything compared to the family he has known for most of his life?

Then, of course, there’s Holland. Before A Conjuring of Light it’s easy to say Holland is the villain of this story and stop there. Schwab’s deliberate and complex characterization, however, slowly reveals that there is much more to this oldest and most experienced Antari. This story is also peppered with flashbacks for all of the characters though most notably for Holland.

It’s a rare epic fantasy that can be grim and tense and also make you laugh out loud. Schwab makes it look effortless here. A Conjuring Light is a perfect conclusion to a truly original series filled with memorable characters, adventure, and one of the most stunning redemption ever.

A Conjuring of Light is a story of uneasy alliances, fierce bonds, and at its center three powerful magicians whose lives are inextricably linked–whether or not they want to be. This series is a must read for all fantasy enthusiasts. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

The Glass Magician: A Review

The Glass Magician by Charlie N. HolmbergThree months ago Ceony Twill returned Magician Emery Thane’s heart to his body and returned to her studies to become a Folder with renewed enthusiasm. After traveling through Emery’s heart, Ceony knows beyond certainty that she loves him. She even suspects he will one day feel the same after a fortuity box promised as much when she read the paper magician’s fortune.

Such relations are strongly discouraged between teacher and apprentice. Despite their growing bond, Ceony has begun to doubt the accuracy of the fortuity box she saw those months ago.

When a magician from Emery’s past surfaces, all of Ceony’s tentative hopes are threatened. The magician thinks Ceony has knowledge that will help further his quest for revenge. And he’s willing to go any lengths necessary to get that knowledge.

Desperate to protect those she cares most about, Ceony will have to take an offensive stance if she hopes to stay alive while keeping her dangerous discovery from ending up in the wrong hands in The Glass Magician (2014) by Charlie N. Holmberg.

The Glass Magician is the second book in Holmberg’s Paper Magician trilogy which began with The Paper Magician.

Holmberg once again brings readers into her unique version of London where all types of magic center on the manipulation of specific materials. Set three months after book one, this story offers an adequate recap of previous events while moving the story forward.

Although The Glass Magician remains interesting and enjoyable, it’s much harder to ignore the lack of world building (why, exactly, does magic work the way it does?) and other flaws. Ceony’s rash behavior is especially glaring throughout.

The story here, largely a remix of the events of the first book, will still have appeal for readers looking for subtle fantasy and a quiet romance. The Glass Magician remains an optimistic and quick diversion. Readers who make it through this installment will likely be eager to read the series to its conclusion in The Master Magician.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Other Teddy Roosevelts by Mike Resnick, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

A Gathering of Shadows: A Review

*A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic Series which begins with A Darker Shade of Magic. As such this review contains major spoilers for book one.*

“Strength and weakness are tangled things. They look so much alike, we often confuse them, the way we confuse magic and power.”

A Gathering of Shadows FinalIt’s been four months since a smuggled stone from Black London nearly destroyed the three remaining cities that share its name. Four months since Kell tied his own life to his brother Rhy, the crown Prince of Red London, to save Rhy’s life. Four months since Kell and his unlikely ally Delilah Bard had to fight their way through the Dane twins in White London to try and save both of their worlds. Four months since Kell returned the stone to Black London along with Holland’s dying body.

Life should be returning to normal.

Rhy is recovered though the nightmare of that night  four months ago still haunt him. Kell stuggles with his guilt and the aftermath of his actions but he is reformed now–a smuggler no more–and determined to make amends. Lila, meanwhile, is trying to find her way in a foreign land in a foreign world now that she has finally left Grey London behind for Red London and its magic.

While Red London prepares for the Element Games, crowds gather for the spectacle and both Lila and Kell find themselves drawn to the games for different reasons. With old friends and allies converging in Red London, perhaps it only makes sense that something darker is waiting to claim its moment in White London.

After all, in worlds where everything has a price and magic can never really be destroyed, alliances and purposes can become very, very, messy in A Gathering of Shadows (2016) by V. E. Schwab.

A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic Series which begins with A Darker Shade of Magic.

A Gathering of Shadows expands the worlds introduced in book one by delving deeper into the international (and even cross-world) politics found in Red London while also bringing other empires and lands into the story. Rich descriptions help bring all of the settings, but especially Red London, vividly to life throughout the novel.

The larger story arc of the series plays out well against the backdrop of A Gathering of Shadows‘ more contained story centered around Element Games. Schwab’s intricate plotting follows various characters in close third person perspective as the novel builds to a climax that is surprising at times but ultimately satisfying.

If A Darker Shade of Magic was all about discovering that magic comes at a price, then A Gathering of Shadows explores what shapes that payment can take as characters search for redemption, validation, and even absolution in their own ways.

A Gathering of Shadows is another sophisticated fantasy with high appeal in a series that seems to only get better with each installment. A must read for fans of book one. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

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

The Carbon Diaries 2015: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci LloydIn 2015 the UK becomes the pilot country for a program to ration carbon in an attempt to stave of the catastrophic climate change that has already lead to super storms and other natural disasters.

Laura Brown uses her diary to make sense of the chaos and keep herself sane in this strange new landscape with minimal heat, carbon ration cards, blackouts and worse.

With everything changes so quickly, will Laura and her family make it through their first year of rationing? Will the coutnry? Only time will tell in The Carbon Diaries 2015 (2008) by Saci Lloyd.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 is Lloyd’s first book about Laura Brown’s experiences with carbon rationing. The story continues in The Carbon Diaries 2017.

Originally published in 2008, The Carbon Diaries 2015 has only become more timely and plausible in 2015. That said, there is something very on the nose in reading a “futuristic” book during the year in which it is set (or after).

Because The Carbon Diaries 2015 is written as Laura’s diary it is sometimes hard to get a sense of her character. Generally, Laura reads very young although that works in the book’s favor as it has fairly broad age appeal.

Lloyd does an excellent job of bringing Laura’s eerie world to life with all of the madness and troubles that come with carbon rationing. It is this evocative prose that save the novel from being relegated to nothing more than a message-driven allegory for readers used to living in a world of chronic over-consumption.

Although The Carbon Diaries 2015 is a slight read beyond the obvious ecological messages, it’s still an entertaining read. Recommended readers looking for something new after reading all the bigger name post-apocalyptic novels.

Possible Pairings: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow,  The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, Empty by Suzanne Weyn

Passenger: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“The truly remarkable thing about your life is that you’re not bound to live it straight forward like the rest of us.”

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenAfter a devastating loss on the night of her latest violin performance, Etta Spencer finds herself torn away from the people she loves and even from her own time.

Nicholas Carter is centuries away and confident his dream of captaining his own ship is well within reach even with the challenges inherent to his status as a freed slave.

When Etta appears as an unexpected passenger on Nicholas’ ship, the two are thrown together in a hunt for a stolen artifact. Etta hopes it can help her return to her own time. Nicholas, meanwhile, believes giving the artifact to the Ironwoods can sever his remaining ties to the ruthless family while also keeping Etta safe.

Traveling across centuries and around the world, Nicholas and Etta will have to trust each other as they follow clues to the artifact’s long-hidden location. Along the way they will uncover secrets about Etta’s past and a truth that could threaten both of their natural times–and everything in between–in Passenger (2016) by Alexandra Bracken.

Passenger is the first of a two-book series that is partly a homage to Outlander and partly all its own. The story will continue in Wayfarer.

Passenger is a thrilling adventure that spans countries and centuries. Each time period Etta visits is brought to life with vivid and well-researched descriptions ranging from the nuances of eighteenth century clothing to an eerily well-realized depiction of London during the Blitz.

Passenger is a book filled with a diverse group of time travelers who live across and between time–often spending large periods of their lives outside of their normal flow of time and living in a decidedly non-linear fashion.

Because of this fluidity, Passenger is filled with unlikely allies (and enemies) as characters who would never otherwise meet are brought together. Consequently the dynamic between Etta and Nicholas has a complex tension as they work to find common ground despite their shockingly different upbringings and times. Their initial attraction and romance is even more satisfying because these two characters meet as equals and partners.

Although Bracken has moved in a different direction from her popular Darkest Minds trilogy, the writing here remains strong with her usual attention to detail both in terms of an intricate plot and many rich settings. Passenger is a delightful novel sure to appeal to fantasy readers and fans of time travel stories as well as readers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2015*

The Paper Magician: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. HolmbergLong before her admission to the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony Twill wanted to be a Smelter.

Instead, the nineteen-year-old is told that she will be a Folder apprenticed to Magician Emery Thane. Worse, once Ceony bonds to paper her fate will be sealed. She will never be able to manipulate any other magic.

Nothing about Ceony’s apprenticeship with Magician Thane is quite what she expected. Instead of a cold and disinterested teacher, Mg. Thane is kind and keen to show Ceony that even lowly paper magic can have its wonders.

Ceony also learns, firsthand, that there is a darker side to magic when an Excisioner–a magician who manipulates flesh–rips Emery’s heart from his chest. Desperate to save her teacher, Ceony sets out after the Excisioner on a journey that will lead Ceony far from the safety of her apprenticeship and deep into the secret chambers of Emery’s heart in The Paper Magician (2014) by Charlie N. Holmberg.

The Paper Magician is Holmberg’s first novel and the start of her Magician trilogy which continues with The Glass Magician and The Master Magician.

The Paper Magician is a charming fantasy with strong crossover appeal. Elements of alternate history and steampunk aesthetics comes together to create a frothy and engrossing novel.

Ceony is a thoughtful and pragmatic heroine. Although she is decidedly unenthused about her future as a Folder, Ceony is smart enough to know an opportunity to wield magic–any magic–is not one to be taken lightly. When her circumstances abruptly change after Emery’s heart is stolen, Ceony also demonstrates pluck and resolve as she sets out to rescue it and save her teacher’s life.

Although outlandish at times (particularly while Ceony is inside Emery’s heart) and not always perfectly paced, The Paper Magician remains a strong debut and a solid series starter. Ideal for readers of all ages. Recommended for fans of historical fantasy, steampunk and Victorian sensibilities.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Other Teddy Roosevelts by Mike Resnick, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer