Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

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Steampunk Fun

Elizabeth Chatsworth’s The Brass Queen will be published 12 January 2021.

Comedy, romance, and adventure light up this delightful gaslamp fantasy set in an alternate Victorian age.

THE BRASS QUEEN was a 2018 Golden Heart® finalist, was showcased in Pitch Wars 2017, and won numerous contests including The Far Side Contest 2018 (Light Paranormal category), The Molly Contest 2018 (Paranormal category), Put Your Heart In A Book Contest 2018 (Paranormal, Science Fiction, & Fantasy category), The Best Banter Contest 2018 (Paranormal category), and The Catherine Contest 2018 (Wild Card category).

Elizabeth Chatsworth on Goodreads

Let me tell you, Ms Chatsworth, whom I virtually met on Litsy ages ago, is not boasting. She knows how to write, and the ARC I read clearly showed all the hard work she has put into the book. It was relaxing to read something that had a well thought through timeline and plot, AND there were no inconsistencies whatsoever – something to bring out the champagne for, actually.

What’s the story about? The story is about Constance Haltwhistle, daughter of a baron who’s been absent from his estate for ages, and arms dealer to a company called Steamwerks. And Mr Trusdale, a Stetson wearing American who is and is not the person he pretends to be.

Although Constance lives in an alternate Steampunk Victorian age, she still can’t inherit her father’s estate. Since her father has been absent for a very long time, her uncle is threatening to seize the estate from under Constances bustle, if she can’t manage to snag a decent husband within the next week.

Her coming out ball is a big success until the three exo-suits that were meant as pure decoration start moving seemingly on their own accord and abduct three scientist friends of Constance’s. That’s when Constance decides that, although she is on the planning committee for the royal visit of the Queen, taking place in a few days, and actively looking for a husband, she needs to rescue her friends at all costs.

Aided by the cowboy Mr Trusdale, her coach man and her butler, Constance is on a mission to bring her big plan of rescuing her friends to fruition. Which means, the reader may settle in for a mad-cap ride through a well-designed and thoroughly thought out world-building with weirdly funny characters and excellent pacing.

Once there were three witches

The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow, publishing date October 15, 2020.

After reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I was happy to be approved for the ARC for Alix Harrow’s next book. A book about witches.

Yet, it is so much more than just about witches. Set in 1883, in New Salem, a town a few miles away from Old Salem, which was burned down in the witch trials about a hundred years ago. Women are fighting for the right to vote. And three sisters need to get to grips with their past and survive the present to allow a future for strong women and witchcraft.

Apart from (feminist) witches and devious witch hunters, this book contains badass librarians, sisters and Sisters, powerful depictions of birth and motherhood, and a gorgeous cover.

The prose is excellent. This is why the rather slow parts in the story are still a pleasure to read. Still, at about 60% of the story I was wondering what else might be coming, I thought everything had been said by then. I was wrong, obviously.

4/5 Goodreads stars


The Once & Future Witches was also our Buddyread this month, picked by our most trusted bookshop, Otherland. TheRightHonorableHarpyEagle skipped along a second time, while TheMarquessMagpie and TheLadyDuckOfDoom discovered the magical story of the three sisters. Here is what we think:

TheMarquessMagpie was very much in awe of the writing style. It felt like fairytales came alive, some of them old, some of them new, all of them feeling like a warm blanket on a cold day. She felt part of the family, one of the sisters herself. There was longing, to be one of the future witches and to believe her familiar is out there, waiting in the dark with red burning eyes until she is ready.

TheLadyDuckOfDoom fell in love with the book, sometimes every page all over again. She especially loved the part on page 399 – 401, which her imagination wants to paint rather badly. It’s the part where old meets new, and no further spoilers will be heard from her, because she loved every part of the story deeply and will not take anything away from potential readers.

This is How You Loose the Time War

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is an unusual book which was suggested by Wolf when I visited Otherland a couple of weeks ago.

It is at the same time lyrical, poetic, and easy to read, straightforward and confusing, a sci-fi time travelling novelette and a romance novel as well. I think hardcore sci-fi fans might find this irritating, but I am always here to try out unique, genre defying books. I read almost everything in one sitting, and I think I only needed a day to finish the whole book (I was on vacation, so I had the time).

I read the book at just the right moment, it was the exact thing I needed. A solid 5/5 stars rating!

Ugh, so cliché!

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London, published 07 July, 2020.

Unpopular opinion! Contains spoilers!

The premise: plus size woman, who is body positive and fashionable, is looking for love on a The Bachelorette-like show.

Bea is a plus size fashion blogger. She’s been pining after her best friend for years. They share one night together after which Ray, who’s engaged, basically ghosts Bea. After a wine induced social media rant about a reality TV show, the producers of the show want Bea to be their next bachelorette to find love among 25 contestants.

Bea is hesitant to go on the show, knowing what kind of trolling she might have to deal with due to it. She still signs the contract and meets the initial 25 men. The majority of them are handsome and not at all what Bea had expected. Here we get my first big issue: although body positive on the outside, Bea is not very positive on the inside. She’s insecure and despite the evidence pointing to the opposite she thinks the men despise her for her size.

I have the feeling that the author had a list of boxes that needed ticking while writing this book. Include a gay person, a black person, an asian person, someone asexual, someone who’s gender non-conform, someone with a fat-fetish, … They are all there! Are they handled well? Nope! Scratched at the surface of what would have been possible. Used as cliché? You bet!

Same for the body positivity. Do we get to see Bea eat healthy? Enjoy a dance lesson? Nope! We are being told that she eats healthy, but then her shopping list contains only snacks, not a single veggie. She tells us she does yoga and cross fit, but nearly freaks out when some of the love interests are personal trainers. Perfect opportunity to show that you don’t have to be stick thin to be fit.

Ray! Bleurgh! A guy who cheats on his fiancée with his best friend? Then there is radio silence? And she keeps pining after this guy?! A girl who takes her best friend to bed knowing he’s engaged to another woman? *hand me a bucket, please* Suddenly he shows up, a week before the finale show, to make sure she knows he loves her before she accepts the hand of another man. Bea’s best friend Skypes in and tries to reason with Bea, but, of course, they argue about the idiot who has been stringing Bea on for the past decade. And, of course, on their date Ray has lots of arguments why he suddenly noticed that Bea is the woman he wants to spend his life with. *where’s that bucket?*

Cue the very predictable finale!

2 very generous Goodreads stars

Let’s Swap!

The Switch by Beth O’Leary, published 16 April 2020.

Leena uses her forced two-month sabbatical to swap places with her 79-year old grandmother Eileen. Eileen moves to live in the shared flat in London, looking for love. Leena moves to live in the tiny Yorkshire village and tries to take care of all of Eileen’s projects.

This story of grief, loss, family, recovery, and love was so good, I couldn’t put it down. Or rather, I couldn’t take my headphones off. The dual narration by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Alison Steadman was the perfect accompaniment to the story.

I fell in love with the characters and felt for them throughout the book. They are real, down-to-earth characters that it was easy to root for.

If you loved Beth O’Leary’s Flatshare, read this. It’s definitely better than watching a whole series of Gilmore Girls, because it’s set in Britain. 😉

5/5 Goodreads stars

Dukes of Christmas #9

Dawn with a Duke by Erica Ridley, publishing date 4 September 2020.

Another great addition to the Dukes of Christmas series.

Due to a snow storm Lady Isabelle, the sister of the Duke of Nottingvale, is forced to stop in a posting house on the way to Chressmouth. Her maid has fallen ill and Belle needs to get creative to get out of her clothing.

Calvin is on his way to an important business meeting in Cressmouth and was also delayed at the same posting house. The circumstances need for them to form an alliance, helping each other and falling in love while doing so.

Belle and Calvin are easy to root for characters.

The perfect historical RomCom for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Sapphic Love and Pirates

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, publishing date 5 May, 2020.

YA standalone about pirates, mermaids, the Sea as an entity, witches, imperialism, slavery, misogyny, arranged marriage, torture, …

A story about love between two women from very different sides of the tracks, the love of a mother for her children, the love of two siblings, the love between a found family, the love of profit. But it fell very flat.

There is Evelyn, a high born woman sailing towards her arranged marriage. She’s leaving behind her servant/lover/best friend without a care about the girl’s future. There is no love between her and her parents, she feels like a pawn in their game.

There is Flora/Florian, a black orphan, who, together with her brother, became a member of the crew of the Dove out of desperation. She turns a blind eye on the captain’s plans to sell the passengers into slavery once they are far enough from their port of departure.

The world-building is a Japan-inspired imperialistic world. There is lots of commentary about colonialism and misogyny.

Witchcraft is introduced in the second part of the book. It was intriguing, but there are only a few instances where magic is used.

The Sea as a mother caring for her children and plotting revenge on the men who kill her offspring is as interesting as the witchcraft element. It’s elaborated on similarly, too.

The romance between Evelyn and Florian is a set thing, soulmates, match made in heaven, why elaborate and show how they fall for each other? I didn’t buy the insta-love. Further, their love for each other is supposed to be what the whole plot rotates about, but we hardly see the two of them have meaningful dialogue.

The middle of the book was rather boring, compared to the interesting and well-paced first part and the rushed ending. Not all issues were resolved.

I wanted to like this book very much. It had a lot of potential. The execution though disappointed me.

2.5/5 Goodreads stars (that’s 3 stars then)

Whimsical fiction with gorgeous cover

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow, published 14 May 2020.

Could I just say that I liked this book more than The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and be done with it? Yeah, thought so.

January, a child of mixed heritage, grows up in the mansion of Mr Locke, her father’s employer. Her father is often absent, travelling the world to find artefacts for Mr Locke. Meanwhile, January often travels with Mr Locke. On one such trip she finds out that her writing has magical ability, what she writes becomes true.

When her father doesn’t return from an expedition, now 17 year old January finds herself at a threshold. Stay with Mr Locke, ignore all she has discovered about herself and her parents so far, or go and open all the doors, find her father, find herself. Of course, she does the latter, but it is a very long walk on winding bumpy roads.

A whimsical YA story. Set in the early years of the 20th century, in the US and ten thousand fantastical worlds. A story about finding yourself, about family, heritage, and, of course, love.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Feisty – guilty pleasure

Feisty by Julia Kent is the third book in her “Do-Over” series, published January 28, 2020.

Fiona earned her nickname ‘Feisty’ in seventh grade. She’s hated the name and the accompanying image ever since and did her level best to change into the Fiona people know now. An incident in her classroom not only brings Feisty back into Fiona’s life, but also her nemesis Chris ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. When the waters have calmed and Fletch seems to be interested in her, Fiona needs to ask the universe, this time not with her divining rod, whether the stars might align for the both of them.

Confession time, I read or listen to Julia Kent’s books whenever I need a break from what’s going on around me. You might expect a light, fluffy read with some sizzling sheet action, but Julia’s books also have well-researched depths where you might not expect them. This time one of the ‘extras’ is a woman with Multiple Sclerosis. As a fighter against the MonSter myself (that is not a typo, that’s how I call my MS), I wrote to Julia to let her know that those paragraphs made me cry and that I appreciate her putting real people into her stories, people with flaws, illnesses, problems.

Feisty has all the things I know and love from Julia’s books. There is a feisty (yes, pun intended) heroine, a handsome man who can handle her and her quirky besties (Fluffy and Perky – both have their own books), lots of banter, puns, double ententre, romance, realism, blind dates, and a lovely HAE.

Erin Mallon, the narrator of the audiobooks in this series, does a wonderful job. She managed both Fiona’s and Chris’s part very well. Her voice was the perfect accompaniment to my literal jam session.

The Greek Mythology Fanfiction You Need

This is a public service announcement for anyone who – like me – has listened to Stephen Fry’s Greek Mythology books Mythos and Heroes multiple times and needs more while waiting for the release of Troy.

Some weeks ago I fell down a Goodreads rabbit hole and discovered Lore Olympus, a WEBTOON comic by Rachel Smythe. I’m usually not a big fan of romance stories, but you have probably never seen anyone tear through more than one hundred episodes as fast as I did.

It is a fun way to scratch that Greek mythology itch, although it does not strictly follow the original lore. I enjoyed the different take on Persephone and Hades’ story that manages without abduction and Stockholm syndrome. There are still some triggers, but there are always warnings in place if you prefer to skip those scenes. In the later episodes, trauma and grief are handled in a very delicate way.

While life on Earth takes place in the time of Ancient Greece, everything on Olympus is very modern – think smartphones, night clubs and Gods driving sparkling sports cars. It makes for a very entertaining contrast. I could go on and on about how I love to see all those mythological personalities portrayed in a very human way. Persephone and Hades have such a sweet dynamic, Hermes is the buddy we all need and a certain someone will forever be Asspollo in my mind. No, that’s not a typo.

Season 1 is done and the next season starts on August 2. So if I got you interested, right now would be the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and start with episode 1.

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