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*

Wires and Nerve: A Graphic Novel Review

To preserve the unstable alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko decides to hunt down  rogue wolf-hybrids who have been attacking both planets. As an android Iko is uniquely suited to the task. She’s also determined to do anything to help her friends Cinder and Kai heal the rift between their two planets.

Iko’s hunt takes far from Luna as she tracks the wolf packs across earth with help from other friends including Cress and Thorne. Unfortunately Iko is also saddled with an unwanted sidekick in the form of Kinney, a royal guard who has little use for Iko and androids in general.

As they come closer to the rogue wolf’s Iko will unearth a conspiracy that threatens everyone she cares about–a threat so big she might even welcome Kinney’s help this once in Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (2017) by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Douglas Holgate.

Wires and Nerve is a new graphic novel series. It picks up shortly after the conclusion of Winter, the final book in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. The graphic novel series focuses on Iko, a character who never got her own book in the prose novels. While readers might appreciate a basic knowledge of the novels, this graphic novel series can be read on its own. (I read Cinder when it first came out and later read recaps of the other books in the series. That combined with Iko’s narrative flashbacks was enough for me.)

Iko’s graphic novel story is surprisingly delightful. In the midst of a cross-planetary hunt for rogue wolves Iko has to grapple with what it means to be an android and how she is treated because of it. She has been erased from the Lunar Chronicle adventures largely because she is “just” an android and even some of her allies (like Kinney) question Iko’s ability to care about anything or anyone when she’s not human.

Holgate’s illustrations are in a blue and white palette that is used to great effect and compliments Meyer’s world. The writing is fast-paced with snappy narration from Iko. This volume also uses the graphic novel format effectively with panels that are well designed to create a cinematic feel to the story (check out the spread on page 197 to see what I mean). Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 is some of the best of what graphic novels have to offer. A great choice for fans of the Lunar Chronicles series as well as readers looking for a new sci-fi comic to enjoy.

Possible Pairings: Dove Arising by Karon Bao, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

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

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett: A Review

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea SedotiEveryone in town is devastated when Lizzie Lovett disappears. Well, almost everyone.

Hawthorn Creely couldn’t care less.

When Hawthorn hears about Lizzie’s disappearance, she expects that to be the end of it. But then instead of moving on with her life, Hawthorn accidentally becomes part of the investigation. As she learns more about Lizzie, Hawthorn also inserts herself more and more into Lizzie’s life. The only one who seems to understand or want to help is Lizzie’s boyfriend, Enzo.

The closer Hawthorn gets to the truth, the more it feels like her own life is falling apart. When Hawthorn finally digs through all of the lies surrounding Lizzie and her disappearance she will have to decide if there is room for unexplained phenomenon and wondrous moments in a world that is all too painfully real in The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett (2017) by Chelsea Sedoti.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is Sedoti’s debut novel.

Hawthorn is a quirky, fascinating heroine and an engaging unreliable narrator. Her voice is offbeat, sardonic and convincingly tone-deaf given her initially self-centered attitude. Although Hawthorn is jaded and solitary, she is painfully aware her friends maturing and changing while she wants everything to stay the same. Hawthorn still wants to believe in a world where magic is possible; a world where a girl turning into a werewolf is not only likely but also a plausible explanation for her disappearance.

Sedoti’s story is weird and entertaining but, for most of the novel, still an effective mystery with suspense surrounding Lizzie’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, the mystery thread ultimately falls flat with a reveal that, while predictable, is frustrating and problematic.

***Spoilers ahead as I discuss specific plot points.***

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Etiquette & Espionage: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail CarrigerFourteen-year-old Sophronia is used to her mother’s disapproval and punishments. Even the idle threats of being sent to live with vampires hold little sway when Sophronia is faced with a situation in which she can attempt something daring instead of being painfully, boringly proper.

What Sophronia could not have guessed is that Mumsy would take matters further by sending Sophronia to a finishing school. Nor could she have anticipated exactly what that will mean when the initial pronouncement is handed down.

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is unlike any finishing school Sophronia could have fathomed. While she can’t be completely sure, Sophronia is fairly certain Mumsy didn’t have this kind of finishing in mind when she sent Sophronia away.

But then who is Sophronia to argue when there are friends to be made with fledgling evil geniuses, inventors with whom to collaborate and all manners of conspiracies to investigate. Manners and dress will certainly be in the curriculum. But so will diversion and deceit in Etiquette & Espionage (2013) by Gail Carriger.

Etiquette & Espionage is the first in Carriger’s YA Finishing School series. It is set in the same world as her bestselling Parasol Protectorate series for adults.*

Carriger has already mastered the skills required to write a supernatural, steampunk, historical fantasy. Her alternate history with elements of steampunk and fantasy tropes blend together exceptionally well with the Austen-like tone of her narration.

The world is well-realized and fascinating although often under explained. It’s impossible to say for sure but it seems likely some shorthand was used in world building (or at least world explaining) since so much groundwork has been laid in the earlier Parasol Protectorate books.

With virtually zero romantic entanglements and numerous high-action sequences Etiquette & Espionage is ideal for readers of any age. The story handles several topics (race and class divisions, friendship, wealth and status) very well adding a nice dimension to the plot. At the same time, unfortunately, the pacing often feels off with an immense amount of  setup in the first half of the novel only to lead to a plot resolution that feels rushed in the final pages.

Etiquette & Espionage is a fine start to a series with a cast of characters that are appealing in every sense even if their world might take a bit too long to come fully into focus.

*Etiquette & Espionage functions as a standalone but readers of both series will likely recognize characters in common.

Possible Pairings: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman,  My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows; A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer

Hemlock: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Hemlock by Kathleen PeacockMackenzie’s life was turned upside down when her best friend, Amy, was murdered by a werewolf.

Since then, Mac isn’t sure what to think. Amy haunts her dreams. Her best friend, Kyle has been unaccountably distant. While Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, seems determined to crash and burn all on his own.

Worse, Trackers have come to town looking for the white werewolf that killed Amy last spring and might be back to continue its murder spree.

Desperate to protect Jason from himself, and ease her own nightmares and guilt, Mac decides to try and find the white werewolf herself. As Mac’s investigation brings her closer to the truth she also learns unsettling secrets about her friends and her town leaving Mac uncertain of who she can trust as she tries to find the white werewolf before it find her in Hemlock (2012) by Kathleen Peacock.

Hemlock is Peacocks first novel as well as the first book in her Hemlock trilogy.

Peacock creates an interesting world with characters who are well-rounded with both strengths and flaws aplenty. Separately, in fact, all of the characters are quite likable and entertaining. The problem comes when they begin to interact with each other.

Mac comes across as a strong heroine in the beginning of the story, but the more the story continues, the more irritating she becomes. Despite being necessarily self-sufficient Mac is embarrassingly clingy in her efforts to save Jason from himself. She is also painfully dense when it comes to Kyle. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, any declaration that a character is strong needs some kind of depth to back it up. Mac doesn’t deliver in the arena. Aside from making her a frustrating heroine, Mac’s irritating personality made the inevitable love triangle unconvincing.

There is always a push and pull with mysteries featuring teen protagonists. The book is about the teens, they obviously need to be at the center of the investigation and the action–that’s the whole point of the book. Unfortunately, Mac’s logic for pursuing the werewolf herself felt very contrived. I also was frustrated at her insistence on keeping her cousin in the dark later in the story. I get it, absent parental figures make stories easier. At the same time it just seemed heavy-handed and clumsy to push Mac’s cousin to the side like that.

Filled with suspense, Hemlock is part mystery, part fantasy, all action. Though there is gore and violence thanks to the vicious werewolf attacks in the story, it is kept in check making this a good choice for someone looking for a read similar to the Hunger Games books but with less violence and (slightly) fewer tears.

Possible Pairings: Clarity by Kim Harrington, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter by Jana Oliver, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Clockwork Prince: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra ClareOnly in London a short time, Tessa Gray’s world has already been turned upside by her brother’s betrayal and the discovery of her own strange ability. With the help of her unlikely Shadowhunter friends, Tessa has managed to make some order from the chaos of lies and mystery that surrounds her.

That order proves tenuous when rival Shadowhunters seek to displace Charlotte and her husband as heads of the London Institute. With Charlotte’s position in doubt, so too is Tessa’s place in the only home she has known since leaving New York City. If Charlotte can find the Magister, the villain cloaked in secrecy who wants to use Tessa’s powers in his mission to destroy all Shadowhunters, her position will be secured. But what if she can’t?

As Tessa helps in the search for the Magister, her future place in London is not the only dilemma presented to her. Why is Jessamine sneaking off so often? What madness leads Will to move so violently between passion and cruelty? Why does her heart still ache so much just to see him? And what of Jem, Tessa’s quiet, steadfast companion in all of this chaos?

With so many secrets, it is unclear which truths should be told and which should remain hidden in Clockwork Prince (2011) by Cassandra Clare.

Clockwork Prince is the second book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, preceded by Clockwork Angel. This trilogy is a companion to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series which begins with City of Bones.

It’s hard to review books that are part of a series because, particularly in the case of this book, you cannot read just one book. Things are even more complicated when the series ties back to a completely different, longer, series.

That said, if the idea of a quasi-steampunk Victorian London where the descendants of angels fight monsters (even while befriending one of those “monsters” who happens to be a warlock) this is the series for you. But don’t start here. Go read Clockwork Angel first then come back to read this review.

Clockwork Prince is simultaneously compelling and painfully frustrating. Many questions from the first book (particularly about Will’s . . . affliction) are answered. Some of the answers are satisfying and add to the story. Some of them add to the general annoyance I had while reading the book.

Neither being or knowing the author, I’m not really qualified to say what each character would or would not do. BUT, for this one reader, it felt a lot like every single character walked through the book doing the wrong things. Worse, they seemed to be doing them for all the wrong reasons. Will all be resolved to my satisfaction in book three? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Finding the answer to that question (aside from my genuine fondness for these characters and this series) is enough to guarantee I will eagerly await the release of Clockwork Princess in 2013.

Clare’s writing remains top-notch here. While the larger plot does take a back seat to character development, Clockwork Prince sets readers up for what is sure to be a stunning conclusion to a clever trilogy.

Possible Pairings: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Sabriel by Garth Nix,  Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Trial by Fire: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

**This review (and the book itself) contains MAJOR spoilers for Raised by Wolves. You have been warned.**

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn BarnesBrynn thought spending the first fifteen years of her life living with the werewolves of the Stone River Pack was hard. Turns out being the alpha of her own pack is even harder.

Brynn is still human, she is still a teenager. But she is also the alpha of the Cedar Ridge pack meaning she is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of an entire pack of werewolves–living day to day with Were who could just as easily kill her as choose to let her lead them.

Worse, being alpha means dealing with the other packs and their–ruthless, older, male–alphas who would mostly want nothing more than to see Brynn dealt with and her pack absorbed into their own. Callum, her former mentor, might want something else but with a Were like Callum it’s impossible to know for sure.

When a battered teenage boy appears in the center of Cedar Ridge territory asking for protection things get even more complicated. Brynn can’t claim another alpha’s wolf without starting a war. She can’t send the boy away to let him die. Strange dreams of fire and other threats start appearing everywhere.

No one said being alpha would be easy. No one said how long Brynn would last as alpha either in Trial by Fire (2011) by Jennifer Lynne Barnes.

Trial by Fire is the sequel to Barnes’ powerhouse novel Raised by Wolves.

Trial by Fire is a great sequel. Barnes capitalizes on the unique world she created in Raised by Wolves while continuing to develop the world of the North American packs and some other supernatural beings to great effect.

All of the characters readers will want to see from the first book are here with further character development and expanded histories, particularly Lake and Devon. Chase, by comparison, still has a lot of question marks about his past and his general character but that is, at least, explained more in this installment.

It hardly seems possible but this book is even more exciting than the first. Brynn is facing challenges from all sides with very few options for help. With danger looming from all sides, Trial by Fire is a definite nail-biter that will draw readers in with action, adventure and even more twists than the first novel in the series. Not to mention a dynamite ending that will leave readers clamoring for a new installment about Brynn and the Cedar Ridge pack.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Divergent by Veronica Roth

**This book was acquired at BEA 2011

Exclusive Bonus Content: Egmont has some really awesome cover designs. I also like the progression between the two covers here. They just really work well together on every level.