This year, the Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) is celebrating the 50 books that made it into Round Two with a mini spotlight blitz tour for each title. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 10 finalists and one overall winner. If you want some more information about BBNYA, check out the BBNYA Website or take a peek over on Twitter @BBNYA_Official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.
Miss Mildred Percy inherits a dragon. Ah, but we’ve already got ahead of ourselves… Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg. The egg – as eggs are wont to do – decides to hatch, and Miss Mildred Percy is suddenly thrust out of the role of “spinster and general wallflower” and into the unprecedented position of “spinster and keeper of dragons.” But England has not seen a dragon since… well, ever. And now Mildred must contend with raising a dragon (that should not exist), kindling a romance (with a humble vicar), and embarking on an adventure she never thought could be hers for the taking.
I had the good fortune of this being one of the books I got to sample as part of the first round of BBNYA and I can’t wait to keep reading! Both the first and second book in this series are on Kindle Unlimited too!
Last year, I took part in the Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award where I read a lot of wonderful writing from various indie authors. My favourite across the board was Accused by M. N. Jolley* so when the opportunity came up to be on the blog tour, I’m there! This book needs to be on the shelves of many many more people. It’s hard to write reviews of books that you adore but here I go…
My name is Levi. I’m a journalist, I’m autistic, I’m bad at magic, and I swear I didn’t kill her. Research for the paper usually falls into a few basic patterns. Someone in the city says there’s a troll under Buck O’Neil Bridge, or they’ll call just so a friendly ear will listen to them complain about a pixie infestation. That sort of content carries me through slow news weeks. It’s rare that I uncover a murder. Being framed for murder, though? That’s a first. With the Wizard’s Council hunting me for a crime I didn’t commit, I’ve got no choice but to solve the murder and clear my name. If I don’t unravel this case, nobody will, and I’ll go down for it so hard I might never see the light of day again.
I haven’t connected with an Urban Fantasy book in a while. I was feeling a little tired of books where the main character is a supernatural badass, or has been holding a stake since they could grip things. Give me a regular guy like Levi, who gets embroiled in things that are way above his pay grade but still wants to do the right thing even if it means things are going to get difficult for him. Much more difficult!
Every character was my favourite character at some point. From Ben, Levi’s date who has no idea about the magic world and learns about it along with the reader, to Maggie, the fae auto-mechanic/ magic item dealer who has her own serialised story. The side-characters are fully fleshed out and I’d read more about all of them! I also really love seeing Autistic and queer rep in any book, but especially in this genre where it’s been lacking.
The writing is a dream. Jolley uses Levi in an interrogation to tell the story of his extraordinary couple of days and there are a couple times where the story might not always be quite what it seems. It never felt too complicated to follow, and gave me a couple moments of ‘oh dang!’ while reading. The plotting is a masterpiece and when I was forced to put the book down, it was easy to pick back up and dive in.
Okay, I’ve finished raving. Please check out M.N. Jolley’s website and read the book, there’s even an audiobook read by Nikola Hamilton who sounds delightfully like Jon Hamm to me. I can finally go and read the sequel that I’ve been holding off until I finished this review and I’m so excited.
*I received this book to read and review as part of the 2021 BBNYA competition and the BBNYA tours organised by the TWR Tour team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest.
My forays into dark academia have either been immense successes (A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik singlehandedly dragged me out of a reading slump) or triumphs over my will to finish (The Secret History by Donna Tart is on my shelf waiting for me to get past that half-way mark). So when I kept hearing about The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake*, I needed to see where it would land on the scale .
When the world’s best magicians are offered an extraordinary opportunity, saying yes is easy. Each could join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places. Contenders Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona are inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds. Parisa Kamali is a telepath, who sees the mind’s deepest secrets. Reina Mori is a naturalist who can perceive and understand the flow of life itself. And Callum Nova is an empath, who can manipulate the desires of others. Finally there’s Tristan Caine, whose powers mystify even himself. Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.
I can see why this book has people by the throat. If vibes could be measured per page, it would be off the charts. The characters are living in a massive country house, messing with magic, space and time, and have the Library of Alexandria at their fingertips. At least, what the Library will allow them to see. The plots role in The Atlas Six is to be the skeleton for the body of the whole story, you really only see the teeth. If that sounds strange, it’s because I’ve been deep in this book for days and every thought in my head is tinged with the writing style.
Speaking of, the writing matches the vibes. It’s like wading through treacle. Rich, but sticky. Blake is dealing with a lot of concepts in her magic system that I found a struggle to follow, but it didn’t always feel like I had to follow either. Similar to when The Secret History was talking about Greek, some readers could possibly read this in a way that meant that they understand and followed the science and theory, but for a casual reader it could be a bit much. It felt best to let it wash over you.
Going in, I had expected all the characters to be unlikeable but I actually could pick out maybe half of the core group that I was rooting for to survive. Libby really wormed her way into my heart. You bounce around the points of view of all of them but unlike other books with multiple POVs, I had no preference which meant their were none that I had to slog through to get to a favourite.
This book is for those dedicated to dark academia, those that like to swim in a sentence and those that use candles as a main form of lighting.
“Men in particular are draining, they bleed us dry. They demand we carry their burdens, fix their ills. A man is constantly in search of a good woman, but what do they offer us in return?”
*I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. It has not changed my opinion.
I’m trying to tone down my book buying in 2022, because I have a lot of books already that I really want to read and haven’t got to yet. I’m prioritising my backlist, and all the amazing books I got for my birthday yesterday. But, there are some that are absolute must-buys for me in the upcoming year and this is them!
All The White Spaces by Ally Wilkes A vivid ghost story exploring identity, gender and selfhood, set against the backdrop of the golden age of polar exploration. I know almost nothing about what this is about as all the blurbs seem both delightfully specific and wonderfully vague at the same time, but I’ve seen a lot of early hype and I do like a blisteringly cold setting for books in the Winter. My pre-order arrived early this morning! 25th January
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee A dark, twisty thriller about a centuries-old, ivy-covered boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past. The dangerous romance and atmospheric setting makes it a perfect read for fans of dark academia. Witchcraft, dark academia, sapphic romance? This book is hitting a lot of my tastes at once and I’m glad this finally has a UK release date. I’ve had it pre-ordered for six months! 22nd February
Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin Y: The Last Man meets The Girl With All the Gifts in Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt, an explosive post-apocalyptic novel that follows trans women and men on a grotesque journey of survival. I can’t remember how I found this book, it’s been on my radar that long. Any book with a comparison to Y: The Last Man piques my interest and the reviews for this sound like it’ll ruin a reader in all the best ways. 22nd March
We All Fall Down by Rose Szabo The first book in a dark fantasy YA duology by the author of What Big Teeth, about the power and danger of stories and the untold costs of keeping magic alive. I read Rose Szabo’s debut in 2021 and adored it. I said at the time that I was excited to see what they wrote next and here we are! I’m not much of a fantasy YA reader but I will make an exception. 7th June
Fault Tolerance by Valerie Valdes From the author of the critically acclaimed Prime Deceptions and Chilling Effect, the hilarious new novel about the adventures of Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra. I’m avoiding the blurb on this one as I haven’t finished Prime Deceptions yet but Valerie Valdes is my favourite sci-fi author. This series is lining up to be an all-time favourite. 23rd June
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R. F. Kuang Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal. An incendiary new novel from award-winning author R.F. Kuang about the power of language, the violence of colonialism, and the sacrifices of resistance. I am so excited to see R. F. Kuang writing a genre I adore, the good ol’ dark academia, while also discussing translation and colonialism. I’ve seen people rave and rave about her writing in The Poppy War trilogy and I’m ready to be broken. 18th August
The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate. A Deadly Education was one of my favourite books that I read last year and the only reason I haven’t read The Last Graduate is my fear of the cliffhanger. September is so far away and I’m furious. 27th September
House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson WANTED – Bloodmaid of exceptional taste. Must have a keen proclivity for life’s finer pleasures. Girls of weak will need not apply. Alexis Henderson decided to put the sequel of The Year of the Witching to the side and I support her whole-heartedly. And she still managed to write this gothic (I’m pretty sure it’ll be a-) masterpiece. Nobody writes a story that’ll get into your soul better. 4th October
The Restless Truth by Freya Marske The most interesting things in Maud Blyth’s life have happened to her brother Robin, but she’s ready to join any cause, especially if it involves magical secrets that may threaten the whole of the British Isles. Bound for New York on the R.M.S. Lyric, she’s ready for an adventure. I read the first book in this trilogy for the blog tour (my review is here) and loved it. But, sapphic murder mystery on a boat? I may actually prefer this one. 1st November
The Sequel to The K.C. Warlock Weekly, Book One: Accused by M. N. Jolley I have it on good authority (a tweet from the author) that I won’t have to wait long for the sequel to one of the best books I read last year so while there’s no date yet, please know that I will drop everything when it is released and you won’t hear from me for 2-5 business days.
This list started off at four, and is now at ten, which probably says a lot about how this plan of mine to prioritise backlist is going to go! What books are you most looking forward to this year?
I feel like A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske* has been on my radar for months and months. A few bloggers that I have similar reading tastes to got early copies and the rave reviews had me impatiently waiting for this to drop through my letterbox. And it was worth the wait. Reader, I’m in love.
Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.
Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.
Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
This book does it all. It has magic, intrigue, murder, romance, libraries, and a personal favourite; a house party in a country manor. So I’ll start with the magic. The idea of building magic with delicate hand movements, like those old cat’s cradles games that I remember being truly awful at as a child, is delightful to me. It’s a fresh magic system while also being just relatable enough that I could fall into this fantasy world without trouble. One of the points-of-view being from a non-magic user discovering this world for the first time, definitely helped.
From the start, I was hooked by the story. When someone is being interrogated for information on the first page, I want to know what is going on! The pacing of the whole book made me want to pick it back up the minute I put it down. 370 pages felt both long and short as I wanted to know where the story would end up but wasn’t willing to miss a minute of how Robin and Edwin got there.
As someone who doesn’t have the strongest visual when reading, I did find that some of the descriptions were a little slow for me. It’s not overly-descriptive, but this is the kind of book that will fill people’s minds with beautiful rooms and beautiful characters if that’s the kind of reader they are. Despite not being that kind of reader, I was so tied up in the plot and the romance that I didn’t mind.
And the romance? A slow-burn with a sweet jock and a stern intellectual is such a great combination. I’ve only started really reading Romance this year but this definitely had some of the steamiest scenes I’ve ever read, as well as some of the sweetest.
That being said, Robin and Edwin are great but my favourite character? Miss Adelaide Harita Morrissey, the secretary extraordinaire. I hope there’s a lot more of her in the following books. I’d like to see all of the side characters again, even the ones I despise as people. Marske didn’t waste a single word creating filler characters while managing to never leave rooms of her world empty.
As for the sequel, A Marvellous Light ended with me itching for the next book, without a cliffhanger in sight for fellow cliffhanger-haters, and I’m already wishing away my life thinking about how it’ll be at least two years before this trilogy is complete.
I’d recommend this for people who liked P. G. Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle but thought both would be better if it was gay and had magic. A Marvellous Light is out now at Hive, Amazon, Waterstones, and anywhere good books are sold!
*I was sent this book to review as part of the blog tour, this has not changed my opinion. Hive and Amazon links are affiliate links.
Despite their popularity, I hadn’t read one of Karen McManus’ Young Adult thrillers before You’ll Be The Death Of Me*! They were always the ones I’d see getting rave reviews and think… sure, one day I’ll read one of those. So when the opportunity to be on the blog tour came up, I jumped. So, how did I find it?
Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day. Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out–he’s been working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up…. again. So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They’ll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say… Until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school–and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse. It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something. Now they’re all wondering–could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?
I often wish I had the books that are being published today when I was a teen, and this is no exception. Younger Imogen who was reading adult thrillers about miserable detectives who hate their wives would’ve eaten up You’ll Be The Death Of Me. The plot was steadily paced with twists and turns galore that kept me on my toes, and I felt like the conclusion was a really nice wrap-up of all the threads that McManus had going through the whole book. I can see why these books are so popular based on the ability to tell a satisfying story alone.
That’s not the only thing about this book I liked though. I thought the characters were well-developed and pretty relatable from my own teen-years. Although I never found the dead body of a classmate, I definitely struggled with academic insecurity and had friends that I would’ve loved to have reconnected with after drifting apart. They felt very- teenage! I think they were just the right level of stubborn in their determination to figure out what happened themselves.
The writing is the kind that keeps the story moving at a good pace but doesn’t necessarily leave you thinking about it once the book is closed. This is fine, and absolutely what I expected, but I wish it had left me with more of an impression once I shut the pages. I’m not sure how much of the story I’ll remember when I look back in a couple of years.
But overall, I really liked the book. it’s not the kind of thing that I would re-read but I might dip my toes into Karen M. McManus’ backlist if I find myself in the mood for a YA mystery. She knows how to keep those pages turning.
The paperback is released tomorrow and is currently only £3.99 on Amazon! Don’t forget to check out my fellow blog tour hosts for their opinions on the book!
*The eBook was sent to me as part of the blog tour. This has not changed my opinion.
The Hallowreadathon really snuck up on me this year! It feels like just a couple of days ago that we were posting the announcement and challenges, and somehow the readathon is this weekend? I have no idea how it happened! So what am I planning to read?
For our Trick or Treat prompt, the book that has recently joined my lair (and one that I’ve been saving just for this weekend) is The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik. I loved A Deadly Education, the first book in this dark academia magic trilogy, and think that this is perfect spooky season reading. It’s been a real struggle not to read it! But it is a game of chance…
I’m not sure I totally thought through how I would do the book that’s been haunting my shelves the longest since I cleared out my Goodreads shelf in a moment of digital decluttering. Luckily, I have a blog! And with that comes years of talking about books, including this haul from 2015! It’s always a little cringey reading out posts but it did remind me that I have a very long boxset of Penguin Little Black classics. And I haven’t read any of them in a good while. So, I dusted them off and pulled out the one I felt was most halloween-y; The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
It’s that time again everyone! The leaves are changing, the weather is turning and all I want to do is bake cookies and curl up under a quilt. And, of course, read. So without further ado, the eighth Hallowreadathon! This year will run from Friday the 29th to Sunday the 31st (the big day!) and both I and my co-host Asha will be over on the Hallowreadathon twitter to cheer you on. We’ve also concocted a few prompts for you to fill, if you want to.
1. Trick or Treat!
Our first interactive prompt! We want you to toss a coin for this one; (pumpkin) heads means it’s time to pick up a book that has recently joined your lair, whereas (forked) tails means you have to dig up the unread book that’s been haunting your shelves the longest.
2. Read a book with white on the cover!
Nothing fills me with dread more than a white cover, as someone who tries to keep their books nice and clean. But we were also thinking of ghosts and ghouls, bare bones and the cool quiet moon on a cloudless night. Pick a book with a white cover, spooky or not, to fill this prompt.
Cozy Mysteries are a genre that I am convinced I will love but honestly haven’t read a lot of beyond Charlaine Harris. I’ve somehow managed to collect quite a pile of them but the one that I wanted to start with, so much that I put is on my list of 27 books to read this year, was The Plot is Murder by V. M. Burns. It was a good decision!
The small town of North Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan is about to have a new mystery bookstore. But before the first customer can browse its shelves, the store’s owner is suspected of her own murder plot…
The thing that made The Plot is Murder stand out to me was that there’s a book being written in the book. Its two mysteries for the price of one. I’ve never experienced this before, it’s been one of those things that just hasn’t crossed my orbit. But, our main character Samantha is writing a historical romance mystery while dealing with the body in her back garden and I found it fascinating. I found myself waiting for the next chapter of Samantha’s book while also wanting to know the whodunit in Samanthas life. Burns balances both really well and, at least in my opinion, manages to make the historical mystery feel like it was written by Samantha rather than by her.
And I really liked Samantha as a writer! She takes parts of her life and puts them in her fiction, big things and little things, like a character who knits a lot while she thinks much like her grandma’s friend. And at one point another character starts reading her book and she gets nervous and doesn’t want to know what they think, but does. I think a lot of readers who also write will see themselves in her.
Now, this book is only 250 pages and contains two mysteries. You don’t get a lot of time with our historical characters but I’m plot-driven as a reader generally and I liked that the time spent with Samantha was more based on her, her life and her murder, and the time spend in 1938 England was mostly about who killed a guy at a party with a dash of romance. In the next book, Samantha is writing a sequel with the same characters, as well as dealing with another murder, so there’s plenty of time to get to know the residents of Wickfield Lodge if you wanted.
Then there’s the old ladies in Samanthas life. I’m a sucker for a book that doesn’t act like life ends at 30 and everyone older than that is relegated to the role of mother or old man with wisdom to impart. Samantha’s Nana and her friends from the retirement home are a blast, think Golden Girls but if they were gossiping about who would kill a man.
The only thing that made me pause was the brief mention of suicide and some negative opinions about it. But apart from that The Plot is Murder sticks to cozy mystery conventions with no graphic images of violence or sex.
Am I going to keep reading this series? Probably! These books are hard to find in the UK and it’s my first real foray into cosy mysteries of this type so I’m going to prod around a little more and see what I can find, but I’m keeping an eye out for Samantha and V.M. Burns. You can find The Plot is Murder on Hive and Amazon*.
Strange how acute your hearing became when you were waiting to be murdered.
So, I took a slightly long hiatus as I finished up my last term of my degree. And now I’m finished and free! It’s very strange to think that such a big part of my life is over. But my trusty blog was still here waiting and I thought I would go over the books I read during my break and give some thoughts on the ones that I haven’t completely forgotten…
Preferring the adaptation might be the theme of these next two reads too. I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and I’ve never been a huge Dickens fan. I studied him and Bleak House for university and he simply isn’t my cup of tea but A Christmas Carol is a seasonal classic and I’m glad I read it, even though I’ll be sticking to the Muppets version in the future. Similarly, I loved the Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jacksonand totally expected it to be a new favourite but in the end, it didn’t work for me.
As part of Rosina’s Women of the Otherworldalong, I’ve been reading my way through the series. Unfortunately, I’m a little behind (five books behind, yikes) so I’ve only read Bitten, Stolen, Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong so far! I’m adoring the series, I’ve just been in a real funk with the fifth book in the series. I’m feeling in an urban fantasy mood lately though so I’ll hopefully catch up soon!
After reading The Murder at the Vicarage, I think I have to face that I’m just not an Agatha Christie girl? I liked And Then There were None back when I listened to the audiobook, but I hated The Man in the Brown Suit. And Miss Marple- just not for me. I’m giving up. Sorry Agatha! Similarly, I loved The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey when I read it but didn’t think much of Brat Farrar, I’ll give her another go though.
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins* was kindly sent to me and I think I can firmly say that historical newspaper-writer murder-mystery romances are just too many aspects in a book for me to enjoy it. I’m passing this on to a friend who will hopefully manage to keep all the different sides to this story clearer in their mind than I could!