Title: Spineless Author: Samantha San Miguel Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction Publisher: Union Square Kids Source: Publisher Format: Paperback arc Release Date: June 7, 2022 Rating: ★★★★
This exciting middle-grade adventure is Hoot for the Gilded Age—with scientific discoveries, secret plots, and surprisingly enormous fauna.
When his asthma lands him at a health resort in the wilds of Gilded Age South Florida, twelve-year-old Algie Emsworth is over the moon. The scientific treasure trove of unexplored swamps may launch his dream career as a naturalist. But even Algie is startled when he happens upon a brand-new species and her brood in the karst springs surrounding the resort. Algie quickly realizes he must keep his discovery a secret: a famous collector of exotic animals is also staying at the hotel, and the new species is threatened by his very presence. An apparent curse has also descended upon the hotel, bringing with it a deadly red tide. But when the pool starts filling with ink and guests start getting mysterious, sucker-shaped wounds, Algie must pluck up his courage to find the truth about the goings-on at the Grand Hotel—and save the new species from destruction.
In the late 1800s, twelve-year-old Algie Emsworth goes to a Florida health resort with his mom and brother to improve his asthma. Algie quickly befriends the resort owner’s daughters, Lulu and Frankie, and they explore the swamps surrounding the resort. The three friends discover a new species of octopus and her eight babies. Algie knows he must keep this discovery a secret, because there is a collector of exotic species also staying at the resort. When strange things start happening, like pools filling with ink and a guest being attacked, it becomes more important than ever for Algie and his friends to protect this new species.
This story explores the dangers of exploring nature and how it can be affected by humans. There is a fine line between exploring and discovering a new species, and exploiting and disturbing nature. Once Algie and his friends had discovered the octopus, it was no longer in a completely natural habitat, without human interference. It’s important to learn about nature and try to preserve it, but we also need to let these species live their own lives without disturbing them for our own human gain.
Algie had asthma which really affected what he could do. He had to be careful not to overexert himself, and he always carried an inhaler ball with him. I think asthma is much more common today, but it was interesting to see how it affected Algie’s life more than 100 years ago, and the medicine of inhalers is still used today.
Spineless is a great story about species discovery!
Thank you Union Square Kids for proving a copy of this book.
What to read next:
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Have you read Spineless? What did you think of it?
Title: Book of Night Author: Holly Black Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary Publisher: Tor Books Source: Purchased Format: Hardcover Release Date: May 3, 2022 Rating: ★★★
Holly Black makes her adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies.
In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.
Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.
In this world, shadows can be altered and can sometimes take on a life of their own. Charlie Hall is a con artist with a bartending day job, with a sister who is obsessed with shadows. When Charlie is approached for a new job, she reluctantly takes it. This job thrusts her into the world of shadows, which is closer to her than she imagined.
I’m sorry to say this book was disappointing for me. I went into the story blind, and I had no idea what was going on for quite a while. The first third of it was slow paced, then there was a surprising twist that made it pick up the pace but then the momentum slowed when the story became too complicated.
I think this story should have been longer, with more descriptive characters or shorter with a simpler plot. By the end, I had most of the male characters mixed up, especially when they were in the same room. The characters were also so similar that I couldn’t differentiate between them.
I really wanted to love this book, but it didn’t work for me.
What to read next:
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Have you read Book of Night? What did you think of it?
Title: Four Aunties and a Wedding (Aunties #2) Author: Jesse Q. Sutanto Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Mystery Publisher: Berkley Books Source: Publisher via NetGalley Format: Ebook Release Date: March 29, 2022 Rating: ★★★★★
Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can’t wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name.
Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can’t believe Staphanie and her family aren’t just like her own, they are The Family–actual mafia, and they’re using Meddy’s wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won’t let Meddy’s wedding ceremony become a murder scene–over their dead bodies–and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia.
The aunties are back, fiercer than ever and ready to handle any catastrophe–even the mafia–in this delightful and hilarious sequel by Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of Dial A for Aunties.
Meddy Chen has worked at countless weddings, but it’s finally time for her own. Her mother and aunties find a Chinese-Indonesian family-run wedding company for Meddy’s wedding. The family is a mirror image of Meddy’s, including Staphanie, their wedding photographer, who can relate to Meddy’s problems with her family. However, the night before the wedding, Meddy overhears Staphanie talk about taking out a target at the wedding. Staphanie’s family isn’t a wedding vendor. They’re actually mafia, using Meddy’s wedding to murder someone. Meddy’s aunties and mother have to help her figure out who the target is and stop the mafia family before they ruin Meddy’s wedding.
This story was a funny sequel, though not as funny as the first one. A lot of the humour from the first book came from the unexpected things that the aunties did to cover up the murder. I was expecting them to be outrageous in this story. However, there were some laugh out loud moments.
I also found this story much more intense than the first one. A lot of the antics that they did to try to figure out who the target was were more serious than funny. I couldn’t see how they were going to get out of this mess. In the end, the explanation made sense to me so I was pleased with what happened. I hope there will be another book in this series because these are such fun characters!
Four Aunties and a Wedding is a great rom com sequel to Dial A for Aunties!
Thank you Berkley Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Raven Spell (Conspiracy of Magic #1) Author: Luanne G. Smith Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery Publisher: 47North Source: Thomas Allen and Son Format: Paperback Release Date: February 1, 2022 Rating: ★★★★
In Victorian England a witch and a detective are on the hunt for a serial killer in an enthralling novel of magic and murder.
After a nearly fatal blow to the skull, traumatized private detective Ian Cameron is found dazed and confused on a muddy riverbank in Victorian London. Among his effects: a bloodstained business card bearing the name of a master wizard and a curious pocket watch that doesn’t seem to tell time. To retrieve his lost memories, Ian demands answers from Edwina and Mary Blackwood, sister witches with a murky past. But as their secret is slowly unveiled, a dangerous mystery emerges on the darkened streets of London.
To help piece together Ian’s lost time, he and Edwina embark on a journey that will take them from the river foreshore to an East End music hall, and on to a safe house for witches in need of sanctuary from angry mortals. The clues they find suggest a link between a series of gruesome murders, a missing person’s case, and a dreadful suspicion that threatens to tear apart the bonds of sisterhood. As the investigation deepens, could Ian and Edwina be the next to die?
In Victorian England, sister witches Edwina and Mary Blackwood discover a man on the riverbank, nearly dead. Mary collects memories from corpses in little baubles, so she decides to take the memories from this man even though he isn’t dead yet. The man, Ian Cameron, wakes in hospital with no memory of his identity, with a business card of a witch and an unusual pocket watch in his pocket. The only clue Ian is given is to find the sisters who run a former apothecary shop. Meanwhile, strange murders are happening across the city, causing alarm. Though the sisters return some of his memories, many of Ian’s recent memories are missing, including the reason he was in town and what caused his accident. Edwina assists Ian in his investigation of the murders, a missing friend, and what caused his accident.
This was an exciting and suspenseful fantasy mystery. I love it when fantasy is combined with historical fiction. There was a secret underground society of witches in this world. The story was fast paced, with a few different mysteries happening at the same time.
The ages of the characters were never given, but I imagined the main characters to be in their early twenties. There was one part where an adult character is said to have a relationship with another character described as a child. It was only mentioned a couple of times but I found it kind of disturbing and out of place with the rest of the story. There were also mentions of suicide, but they were brief.
This story ended on a cliffhanger. I’m really curious to see what happens in the next book!
Thank you Thomas Allen and Son for providing a copy of this book.
What to read next:
The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Have you read The Raven Spell? What did you think of it?
Title: Esme’s Birthday Conga Line Author: Lourdes Heuer, Marissa Valdez Genre: Children’s, Picture Book Publisher: Tundra Books Source: Publisher Format: Hardcover Release Date: May 10, 2022 Rating: ★★★★★
Esme always has a plan. A funny and sweet early illustrated chapter book about a problem-solving girl who has to manage her own birthday bash. For fans of Dory Fantasmagory.
Esme lives with her grandparents on the uppermost floor of the topmost best building. It’s her birthday. Mimi and Pipo gave her a beautiful guitar. But they didn’t plan a birthday party.
Esme thinks this is the way with grandparents. They don’t know about parties or piñatas or birthday cake. No problem! Esme is great at problem solving.
With a little help of her cat, El Toro, and a LOT of help from her neighbors in the topmost best building, the irrepressible Esme gets the birthday party of her dreams.
Esme lives with her grandparents on the uppermost floor of the topmost best building. They gave her a guitar for her birthday but they didn’t plan a party for her. So Esme, with her cat El Toro, decides to make her own birthday party by making a piñata, baking a cake, and inviting everyone who lives in the building, even the grumpy superintendent!
This is an adorable early chapter book about an independent little girl. When Esme didn’t get the party she wanted, she decided to make it happen. Though she made the plans to do everything, the rest of her guests from the building helped her with each step.
I liked that Esme lived in an unconventional household, living only with her grandparents. They didn’t understand that Esme wanted a party for her birthday, so this shows one issue that can arise from an unconventional family situation. It’s important to have diverse representation of different cultures and family structures, so that all children can see themselves in books and all children can learn all family lifestyles.
Esme’s Birthday Conga Line is an adorable children’s book.
Thank you Tundra Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Your Birthday Was the Best by Maggie Hutchings, Felicita Sala
Have you read Esme’s Birthday Conga Line? What did you think of it?
Title: Veil (Hush #2) Author: Dylan Farrow Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publisher: Wednesday Books Source: Publisher via NetGalley, Raincoast Books Format: Ebook, Paperback arc Release Date: April 26, 2022 Rating: ★★★★
The thrilling sequel to Hush, one of the most talked about YA fantasies of 2020.
Shae’s entire world has been turned upside down, and everything she’s ever believed is a lie. More determined than ever, she sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal—a place forbidden to mention and resigned to myth—in search of a dangerous magical book that could alter the fabric of the world.
Following the trail of Ravod, the boy she thought she knew and trusted, Shae discovers there is far more to the young man who stole the Book of Days than she ever realized. Together, with her friends, Mads and Fiona, and a newfound ally in her fierce former trainer, Kennan, Shae crosses the borders of the only home she’s ever had and into a world ruled not by magic, but technology and industry — one fraught with perils of its own.
In a world shrouded in lies, Shae is desperate for answers and to restore peace, but who will lift the veil?
After discovering that everything she had ever been taught was a lie, Shae sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal with her friends. They are looking for the Book of Days, which was stolen by Ravod. When they go to Gondal, they discover that it’s ruled not by magic like their world, but by technology. Shae is still adjusting to a world with writing and books that is completely different from the world she grew up in. She has to find and use the Book of Days to restore her home.
This was an exciting sequel to Hush. I liked that it showed the world beyond Montane, the setting of Hush. Gondal closely resembled our real world, with large buildings, technology, and a lack of magic, whereas Montane was a fantasy land.
I was a little disappointed in the ending. I hoped that it would continue in another book because there is still more to explore in that world, but the epilogue suggested it’s the end of the story. There was an unexpected death that I thought Shae should have had a stronger emotional reaction to. I did like some surprising twists near the end of the story.
Veil is a good sequel to Hush.
Thank you Raincoast Books and Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book.
Title: Dukes Do It Better (Misfits of Mayfair #3) Author: Bethany Bennett Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Publisher: Forever Source: Publisher Format: Paperback Release Date: May 24, 2022 Rating: ★★★★★
From the series guaranteed to “win the hearts of Regency fans” comes a story of secrets, scandal, and unlikely love that will warm even the coldest of hearts (Publishers Weekly).
After a debut season plagued by scandal, Lady Emma Hardwick is ready to return to London, now with her young son in tow, and make a match. She’s looking for someone respectable. Someone wholly unlike Malachi Harlow, the new Duke of Trenton and former ship captain, whose long hair and tattoos make him decidedly dangerous to her peace of mind.
Malachi would rather be at sea than in a London ballroom. But until he can sort out why the admiralty brought him home, he has to stay landbound. That becomes less of a hardship when he meets the beguiling Lady Emma, whose dimples and easy laughter capture his imagination. When they start receiving threatening notes, they realize that there’s more to their connection than chemistry, and they’ll have to work together to figure out why someone wants to ruin their lives.
Lady Emma Hardwick had a scandalous history in London, but she’s ready to return for the season, with her young son. She would like to find someone who can give them a secure future, but that may not be Captain Malachi Harlow, the new Duke of Trenton. Emma and Malachi had one night together on a beach months ago, but they’ve been apart ever since. Malachi would rather be on his ship, but after the death of his older brother, he needs to be in London to find his place as Duke. They try to have a short fling during the London season, but they have undeniable feelings for each other. Then they receive some threatening letters that put their relationship at risk. Emma and Mal must decide if their love is strong enough or if they should go their separate ways.
This story began with the romance already in progress. I liked that Emma and Mal already had strong feelings for each other right from the beginning. It made their story feel bigger than this book, since it had begun off the page. Their chemistry was strong and believable.
The miscommunication trope was in this story, which I find so frustrating. It made sense and was believable that they would misunderstand certain things in those circumstances, but I still wanted to yell at the characters to just talk it out. Luckily the misunderstanding part didn’t last too long in the story.
Dukes Do It Better is a great Regency romance!
Thank you Forever Pub for providing a copy of this book.
What to read next:
Never a Duke by Grace Burrowes
Not the Kind of Earl You Marry by Kate Pembrooke
Other books in the series:
Any Rogue Will Do
West End Earl
Have you read Dukes Do It Better? What did you think of it?