Mini Book Reviews: One

Recently I sped through a couple eARCs and I wanted to get reviews out for them ASAP. I had seen the awesome Sabreena over at Books and Prosecco do a series of Mini Reviews and I thought that would be the perfect way to do these reviews. Without further ado, I present my mini reviews!

Each of the books reviewed in this post is an eARC provided to me by the publisher noted in the review via Edelweiss. All opinions expressed are completely my own and not influenced in any way

Into the Crooked Place
Alexandra Christo
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Synopsis: The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.

Rating: 2 Stars

When I read ARCs I try to take into consideration that the final product will most likely more polished, but sometimes I just can’t get past certain things. And that was a big problem with Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo for me. There were so many instances of telling and not showing, waaaaaaaaay too convenient plot twists, and poor world/scene building. For instance, there is what I’m sure was intended to be a “bad ass” scene showing us once again that the character of Wesley is a bastard (a theme in the book, for sure). In it, a guard in a tower yells down to Wesley, shoots a warning shot, and Wesley in an instant, draws his gun and shoots the guard dead (the shot lands between the guard’s eyes). Okay, some questions: how far away was the guard on the tower? What kind of gun did Wesley use that could be so accurate at what I’m thinking should be a pretty far distance? Why was this guard just standing out in the open at the top of a tower, in a way that could get him shot from the ground level? Also, when did Wesley become an expert marksman? There was no back-building of that history and the scene is just a hot damn mess. I’m usually a pretty easy reader, but the way this story was written just pulled me out too much and I have so many highlights in my kindle with notes that just say “really?” with an eye rolling emoji next to it. The magic system made almost zero sense to me and I am no stranger to complicated magic system. The characters were flat and I didn’t find myself caring for any of them. While I liked that there was a f/f relationship (sort of, I think their status would be “It’s complicated”), the relationship started and ended before the book began, so we are left with random flirting and kissing, which never really pulled at my heartstrings. I think there was a good story in this one and I’m hoping that it was polished a lot before the final version was released.

Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters
Emily Roberson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)/Macmillan
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Synopsis: Greek mythology meets the Kardashians in this fresh, fast-paced debut young adult novel about celebrity culture, family dynamics, and finding love amidst it all.

Sixteen-year-old Ariadne’s life is shared with the world. Her royal family’s entertainment empire hosts The Labyrinth Contest, a TV extravaganza in which Ariadne leads fourteen teens into a maze to kill a monster. To win means glory; to lose means death. In ten seasons, no one has ever won. When the gorgeous, mysterious Theseus arrives at the competition and asks Ariadne to help him win, she doesn’t expect to fall for him. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and she can help him survive. If he wins, the contest would end for good. But if she betrays her family, more than their empire is at stake—the monster would have to die. And for Ariadne, his life might be the only one worth saving. If her every move is watched by the public and predestined by the gods, can she forge her own destiny and save the people she loves?

Rating: 2 Stars

Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters is one of those books that I wanted desperately to enjoy, but I could never find myself clicking with it. The premise was highly intriguing, but the execution was lacking. Between the insta-love, “I’m not like other girls” trope, and general awful personalities it was hard to ever feel anything for the characters. I struggled with that because I know that this is based on Greek Mythology and the gods were hardly beacons of good decisions. But in a world where we are already exposed to the gross side of humanity through reality TV shows, this book only served to be another instance of exploitation. If I felt it had a moral lesson or it was done in a satirical way that called out the reality TV industry, then maybe I would have enjoyed it more. My issues with the story aside, I think this is a fairly good debut and I hope to find more enjoyment in future books from the author.

The Widow of Rose House
Diana Biller
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Synopsis: A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel.

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor Samuel Moore appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life—especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam. Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history—and her heart. Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

Rating: 4 Stars

The Widow of Rose House was a delightful shake up to my usual YA Fantasy reading list. I don’t often read historical fiction, but something about this one just called to me and I’m so glad I decided to read it. The dual plots of ghosts and romance were perfectly balanced, and both kept me engaged. I loved the chemistry between Alva and Samuel and their banter was perfection (as a typical YA SFF read, banter is everything!). Some of the writing felt a little modern at times, but not enough to drag me out of the story. The atmosphere was phenomenal, and the pacing of the story was good. I’m looking forward to trying this book as an audiobook next year (planning on a spooky season reread!). Would recommend to anyone who like romance, but especially if you’re like me, and want some supernatural in the mix!

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