Tag Archives: review

Short Tuesday #35: “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed" by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story! It’s set in Nigeria and incorporates tons of the local flavor, in terms of the dialogue, setting, and local superstitions. I’m realizing that maybe I have a thing for African horror, since I also love the South African duo S.L. Grey–maybe I should put in a conscious effort to read more genre fiction from that area of the world, since I always find the African-tinged worldbuilding so fascinating.

All the body horror fans listen up, because this story is for you. If you’ve ever wanted a first-person view of what it’s like to turn demonic, with all the gory teeth-gnashing and claw-growing details, definitely check this one out. That’s the story in essence–as simple as a poor high school boy who is unlucky enough to go through a second monstrous puberty. The author gets it done with vivid imagery and a pacing and tone that I found riveting and oddly poetic. It was the kind of story where I just couldn’t look away; if you’re looking for a quick horror read, this is one I highly recommend.

Blog Tour + Review: The Princess Plan by Julia London

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Princess Plan debuted November 19th.

Hey, everyone, I’m “alive”! Quotation marks because I’m just barely kicking; NaNoWriMo is attempting to beat me to a bloody pulp. I’ve been really pushing myself this past week, and even hit a new personal best for a daily word count: 2083. I’m really satisfied with my progress on my WIP, but also reaching a point of absolute exhaustion. Seven more days, and then I can be a normal blogger again…

Anyway! Today I get to participate in my very first blog tour–oooh. I’m new to Julia London, and everything about The Princess Plan was speaking to me when I signed up, from the almost fairy tale premise to the cover. Let’s get the nitty gritty out of the way, then get down to the review…


The Princess Plan 
London, Julia 
FICTION/Romance/Historical/Victorian 
Mass Market | HQN Books | A Royal Wedding 
On Sale: 11/19/2019  
9781335041531
$7.99 USD
$10.99 CAN

Blurb

Princes have pomp and glory—not murdered secretaries and crushes on commoners.

Nothing gets London’s high society’s tongues wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefitted from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater one in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.

Author Bio

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

Social

www.julialondon.com/newsletter
www.facebook.com/julialondon
www.twitter.com/juliaflondon
www.instagram.com/julia_f_london

Buy Links

Harlequin | Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Google Play | IndieBound | Kobo

Review

This is my first foray into Julia London, but I’m already a fan. I thoroughly enjoyed The Princess Plan; it’s swoony, it’s funny, the prose is rock solid, and the character voices were excellent. The MC, Eliza, is a real hoot, and she’s smart. It often takes me a bit of time to build up rapport with the female leads in romance, but with Eliza I was on her team from page one. The prince male lead, too, was great; you can’t help but feel for him as he tries to navigate a world of politics, all while falling head-over-heels for a woman too far beneath his royal station.

Speaking of character, there wasn’t a single character in this book that made me groan. So often in historical romance the female MC is surrounded by friends who are either a) one-dimensional, or b) annoying to the extreme. I actually loved the relationships between Eliza and her friends; their repartee was charming, and I’d love to see more of these characters. (And I’m sure that we will, given that there’s already a second book in the series listed on Goodreads.)

I also want to commend the author on incorporating a suspense plot that kept me guessing. I’ve read a decent amount of historical romance this year, and I’ve learned that I really appreciate a strong non-romantic plot thread; this book delivers on that front, all while keeping the heart-pounding bits front row center. Basically this book kind of has it all, and I was engrossed the whole way through. If you’re looking for a historical romance, I’d definitely keep this one on your radar.

Short Tuesday #34: “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson. You can read the story for free here…

I thought this short story was great! It follows two Mexican brothers who discover a baby in the middle of the road while they’re walking home from a night spent drinking. I was really impressed with the atmospheric tone Larson sets immediately, as well as the quick characterization that nevertheless totally allowed me to understand the dynamic between the two brothers in the story. Larson accomplishes a lot in this quick short story; the whole thing wraps up within 1500 words!

The Mexican cultural details contributed a lot to the piece, and everything had just the right amount of ambiguity–I’m never on board with horror that shines a light on every detail. I also loved the author’s voice, and would definitely read more by Larson. It didn’t have that extra je ne sais quoi to take it to a five-star read, but nevertheless, I really recommend giving this story a read if you have ten minutes to spare.

Short Tuesday #32: “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday; I mean, it’s almost Halloween, so how can I not? The short story I picked this week was “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story from start to finish! It details a high school girl who keeps finding herself in eighties slasher-type situations where she is the only survivor. After all her friends and her mom are killed, she decides to leave town to embark on a journey where she inserts herself into situations where a killer is bound to surface: frat parties, sleepy two-bit towns, etc. The hope is that she saves some people in each massacre, who will give her some money to continue her journey. If you’re into self-referential horror (and what true horror fan isn’t?), then this is the story for you.

The use of a second-person POV is an interesting narrative choice, and I don’t mean that in a “bad-interesting” type of way; I think it really works for the piece! Basically I don’t have anything critical to say here; it’s a great read for Halloween, especially if you’re at all a fan of eighties slashers.

Short Tuesday #31: “Glove Box” by Annie Neugebauer

This week I again happened to be looking up short fiction by Stoker nominees and found myself reading “Glove Box” by Annie Neugebauer, published in Dark City Magazine. You can read the story for free here…

I really enjoyed this short story! I don’t want to give much away, but it details a woman in a convenience store who is frightened of one of her customers, due to a string of violent events that have happened recently. The author manages to maintain a level of dread all while concealing background information from the audience until the very last moment. The story feels very grounded in the real world, without a hint of anything supernatural, but somehow you get the sense that there might be eerie forces lurking, ready to spring.

The prose is simple and fits the story well, and the MC, Rose, is very relatable; you can easily imagine yourself in her position, on high alert all while doubting her paranoia. If you want a quick, eerie story, “Glove Box” is definitely one to check out.

ARC: The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Speed of Falling Objects debuted October 1st.

If there ever was a book to convince me that I don’t want to visit the Amazon rain forest, this is it. The book progresses from a page one plane crash to poison dart frogs, killer snakes, leeches, and all the creepy crawlies you could ever want. MC Danny, short for Danielle, must confront all these and more as she and her survival TV star father, along with a reality television crew and a teen heartthrob movie star, endeavor to make their way to safety.

But this book isn’t just about the perils of the Amazon. Danny’s mission is to use the time in the jungle to get closer to her dad, who, to put it bluntly, is a total dick. She hardly knows him, but has spent most of her life obsessed with his wilderness survival television show. Much of the book revolves around her hopes and expectations about her father being summarily dashed; she has to learn who her father really is and whether she can accept that reality or not. The book was a bit introspective for my taste, but that’s a personal preference thing.

The writing is strong, and Fischer holds no punches. The inclusion of the teen heartthrob character made me think at the outset that this would be a bit of a fluffier read, but it’s definitely not. People die in this book, permanently, and not just the ones you’re kind of hoping might. If you’re looking for a wilderness-themed page-turner, this is definitely a book to pick up!

Short Tuesday #29: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

This past weekend I happened to be looking up Stoker Award nominees and finalists for the past few years and noticed that one of the award winners for short fiction was published in Nightmare Magazine! So you know me and my love of good old NM; I plowed through Alyssa Wong’s story in no time. You can read the short story here…

Kirkus called “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” a take on a vampire story, but as I was reading I was feeling succubus vibes all the way; the MC literally sucks evil thoughts from her (usually male) victims. She normally meets her victims through Tindr, a touch that I just loved for whatever reason, maybe for the subverting of the common wisdom that it’s normally dangerous men you have to watch out for when it comes to online dating, rather than women.

Other things I enjoyed about this story included the touches of Chinese culture throughout the piece and especially the opening scene, which was just so unexpected in the best way possible. I will say, though, that this story did go a little off the rails for me in the final act. There’s a turn of events that felt a bit too much “betcha didn’t expect that” for my tastes. Nevertheless, I can see why this piece garnered attention for literary awards, and it’s definitely worth a read.

Short Tuesday #28: “Wilderness” by Letitia Trent

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to take a look at “Wilderness” by Letitia Trent. You can read it for free here…

I had a lot of fun with this short story! It concerns a group of people waiting for a delayed flight in a small airport who become increasingly concerned that dire secrets are being kept from them by the airport staff. The main character is traveling alone, is feeling sick, and gives off aloof vibes, which introduces a wedge between her and the other passengers. If you’re a fan of fiction with a paranoia/mob mentality focus (The Mist comes to mind), then this is probably a good read.

One thing I thought was interesting was the author’s decision to not employ quotation marks for any of the dialogue—perhaps to keep everything happening around the MC feel a bit more distant to her? Her character is of an observer, and I think that not using quotation marks perhaps gives readers a stronger feeling of being fully in the MC’s head. It’s a writing technique I might think about using myself in the future.

I do wish there had been more of an ending to the piece; like a lot of other short stories, “Wilderness” ends abruptly, and I didn’t find the conclusion satisfying. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the author’s voice and all the character details.

ARC: Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, and Mary Jo Putney

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Seduction on a Snowy Night debuted September 24th.

Well, here we are; it’s not yet October and my Christmas ARC reviews are starting to go up. And from the publisher’s side of things, I get it, I get it, but I don’t necessarily have to like it. 😛

So Seduction on a Snowy Night caught my eye because it seemed like a great way to become acquainted with some more regency romance authors; I have not read anything by these authors prior to this. The book includes a novella by each author, with each story taking place during the Christmas season.

A Christmas Abduction by Madeline Hunter

The first novella revolves around a baron making his way home on the holidays who finds himself kidnapped at gunpoint by a woman who harbors a mysterious grudge against him. She brings him to her estate, where the baron must figure out the reason he’s been kidnapped and what to do about it. Of course, the chemistry between him and his captor is fierce, grudge notwithstanding, and even once the baron is allowed a bit more freedom, he finds that he might not want to return home.

I enjoyed this story, especially the baron’s POV sections. Hunter’s prose gets out of the way of the story, which is a quality I find absolutely crucial for romance in particular. I did feel that readers weren’t allowed to get to know the female MC as well as the baron, so it was a bit more difficult to identify with her. All in all, though, this was a great start to the book.

A Perfect Match by Sabrina Jeffries

Jeffries’s novel also involves a kidnapping, though this one is a bit more voluntary. Female lead Cass and her cousin Kitty are spirited away from Kitty’s dangerous suitor in the nick of time by the handsome Colonel Lord Heywood. Cass is an heiress who pretends at future poverty so that whoever is wooing her is only doing so out of true love. Heywood is swiftly falling in love with Cass, but knows he can only marry someone with a substantial dowry, for his own funding is meager.

This was probably my favorite story of the bunch by a hair. The chemistry between the two MCs is great, and we get to know each of them well. Jeffries’s writing wasn’t distracting from the story either. My only wish is that there weren’t so many family members introduced in the latter half; I have a feeling that most of them are characters from other books. I know this is a thing in romance, but it personally irritates me; I’d rather focus on the story than suddenly have all these inside jokes and call-backs to other books foisted on me as a reader. Just my two cents.

One Wicked Winter Night by Mary Jo Putney

This was the one novella of the three that I did not get on with. The premise is that a woman who has been in India for the past long while returns to England and immediately encounters the man who she was previously in love with, even sharing a kiss with him at a masked ball. Despite loving the male MC back in the day, she rejected his advances, but now in the present they find that they are both tempted to rekindle their relationship.

A good part of my grievances with this third novella came down to Putney’s voice; it’s not a close enough 3rd POV for my taste, so there was a lot of “she realized/thought/wondered/etc,” which is mega-distracting to me. Different strokes for different folks, of course, but the writing style to me just felt a bit dated. I was also annoyed by the focus on cats in this book; it was too cutesy for my taste, even though I have nothing against cats.


So there we go! This collection didn’t bowl me over the head with awesomeness, but I enjoyed two of the three. I’d say if you’re interested in trying out these authors without committing to a full book for each one, this is a solid pick. And if you’re a fan of them already and looking to get into the Christmas spirit, then this collection is an obvious no-brainer.

ARC: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Harp of Kings debuted September 3rd.

I have a lot of respect for Juliet Marillier for writing the Sevenwaters trilogy. It’s been years since I read the first Sevenwaters book, but I remember it being absolutely fantastic. I also read Wildwood Dancing last year, which I loved, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

So knowing that Marillier is an industry heavyweight and a fantastic writer, I couldn’t request an ARC of The Harp of Kings fast enough. This is the start of a new series, with three books already listed on Goodreads, and the premise seemed great: a shadowy fantasy organization that gets contracted for missions (basically a fantasy CIA), whose latest quest is to recover a stolen harp that is crucial to a coronation ceremony. The three young main characters on the mission are vying to be fully inducted into the organization; this mission will be their proving ground. Cool, right?

So with all this said, you can’t imagine how disappointed I was to read this book and have a difficult time connecting with it. Many of the characters, and especially the dialogue, felt wooden, like it was missing some spark of life. Much of the action also felt too unrealistic for my taste. To give an example, the female MC has an encounter with the detestable heir-to-throne, where he tries to rape her and she shoves him, causing him to fall and hit his head hard. Through the eyes of characters in a medieval setting, this is understandably seen as her attacking the heir. The fall-out from the incident, however, was less than serious; after a bit of politicking, all she needs to do is give him a formal apology and the incident is more or less in the past. This punishment-not-punishment is meted out by the heir’s advisors; despite the fact that he is a man about to take the throne, he’s essentially not able to follow through on his now hatred for the female MC. The whole thing just felt extremely unrealistic to me; I have a very tough time believing that there weren’t more serious consequences for the female MC. (Please understand that I’m not taking the side of the heir, but just questioning the logic of the narrative choices.)

I also had a very tough time with the ending. Spoiler incoming in:

3…

2…

1…

There is a literal hand-of-God moment where the question about who should be the true king is decided by a celestial presence on high shining a light on the one they favor. It was a textbook definition of a deus ex machina.

This then followed by a denouement that featured more wooden dialogue, with all the flair of an HR exit interview.

“What part of this mission gave you the most satisfaction?” This surprising question comes from Illann.

Dau catches my eye and we both grin. Neither of us is going to mention that escapade at the wall. “To be honest,” he says, “I spent most of our stay at Breifne feeling anything but satisfaction. I was pleased when Liobhan got Brocc out of that place. And I was pleased when the harp ended up in the right hands.”

“And you, Liobhan?”

“Working as a team. We got better at that. We learned as we went along. Only… without Brocc we’re not so much of a team. Sorry.”

Do you see what I mean? This is a book that has a great, interesting premise, but fell short in the execution. If you are a diehard Marillier fan then by all means check it out (I’m pretty sure it has some Easter eggs in there for her fans), but sadly I won’t be continuing with this series unless I hear very different things about the second book.