I’ve been such a lazy blogger lately. I just don’t feel like reviewing right now. At the end of the day when I finally have time to myself, I’d much rather read than write a review. But alas, the job of a book blogger who accepts and reads ARCs is to actually talk to them. So welcome to what I’m sure is the beginning of a series for me: a bunch of small reviews to assuage my blogger guilt.
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 27th, 2017
Genres: historical fantasy
An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.
This was some of the best fun I had while reading this year. I’m not usually into books about alchemy, but I didn’t know that going in and I’m very glad for that; otherwise I may not have given this new favorite a chance. It was shippy and witty and laugh-out-loud hilarious the whole way through. I even found myself reading passages aloud to my husband because it was just that funny.
Monty is very much the star of this show. He’s arrogant, full of himself, and lives a life sheltered from his own privilege. Of course he has his demons, including a physically abusive father and a deep sense of self-loathing. But if you’re looking for an intensely relatable character, you’ll find one here. And if character growth and development is your thing, you’ll be deeply satisfied by Monty’s internal journey.
The other two characters, Percy (love interest and best friend) and Felicity (sister) were excellent. Of course the ship was SO painful. I just wanted to bang their heads together. There’s nothing quite like the slow burn romance between two people who don’t realize the other has feelings for him. It was intense and the best kind of pain. And Felicity was amazing. She’s stuck in the wrong era, desperately wanting to further her education and study medicine. On top of being supersmart, she also has no patience for Monty and his shenanigans. She’s funny, smart, and no nonsense and I love her, my precious child.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of Gentleman’s Guide but if you haven’t please immediately add it to your TBR because it’s a perfect romp full of romance, fantasy tropes, and adventures.
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published by Disney Hyperion on November 5th, 2015
Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.
What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.
Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.
To put it very simply, The Naturals is a product of its time. It’s very forgettable and one that is in one ear and out the other, or whatever the reading equivalent of that phrase is. Fun while it lasted but full of tropes and devices that at best are trite.
I don’t even remember the main character’s name, that’s how forgettable it was. What I do remember is the god-awful love triangle that had no business being in the book at all. I also remember the mystery being easily solved, and it didn’t feel like the author really tried to hide it. I also found it laughable that the FBI would have a bunch of teenagers in some house basically on their own, and have those kids working for them, too. Also yikes at the one Asian character having the requisite blue hair streaks and being a liar. Nice.
I didn’t rate this one lower because like I said, it was fun while it lasted. I have a thing for a Sherlock type character and Barnes tried with this one. I also really do like mysteries, even when they’re solvable.
Frostblood by Elly Blake
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on January 10th, 2017
The frost king will burn.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.
Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.
Oh mannnnn. I definitely enjoyed this more than I should have. I mean, there are many, many familiar tropes here, from the elemental magic itself, to the romance, to the gladiator-style arena fighting the characters must endure. But I still loved every single word of this and I’m dying for the sequel.
The real driving force behind me as I turned every page was the SHIP. THE SHIIIIP. I wanted to scream the moment the love interest showed up; I knew this would be a hate to love romance and I knew I would feel things. AND I FELT THEM. Arcus was cold and aloof and shrouded in mystery (and that mystery – I mean, we’ve all seen this play out before in other books, but I was still reeling when the reveal happened) and I loved watching him crack. I loved watching Ruby and Arcus sparring both with their magic and with their words. Their chemistry in a certaIN SCENE was too much for me, and I stayed up way, way too late reading so I could see them get together.
One thing I really appreciate about Frostblood that I feel is lacking in some series starters is that it had its own arc and I felt very satisfied with the ending. There wasn’t a hard cliffhanger at all, but at the same time I was definitely left wanting more. Now that things have settled, I’m very interested to see where the story goes and how Ruby and Arcus navigate their relationship with all this information out in the open.
Frostblood is very much fantasy for beginners but there’s something comforting about this type of read. It could be considered predictable, but just like when I read straight up romance, I sometimes like knowing I can count on the characters and story to do what they promise.
Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History Published by Harper Perennial on October 10th, 2017
Inspired by author Tori Telfer's Jezebel column “Lady Killers,” this thrilling and entertaining compendium investigates female serial killers and their crimes through the ages.
When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, “There are no female serial killers.”
Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.
Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist clichés that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.
What a fascinating read! I, like many others, love learning about killers, crime, and serial murderers. Before we got rid of cable this spring, you could routinely find me glued to Investigation Discovery. And one thing I’ve noticed is that so much of the focus is on men. So when I saw this, I knew I had to read it.
I loved learning about women I hadn’t heard of before. Like I said, this is a Thing I really enjoy, and usually when there’s a grouping like this, it’s the usual suspects like Countess Bathory or Aileen Wuernos. Of course, Bathory made the cut, but there were many others I hadn’t heard of before. I also appreciated how thoroughly sourced this work is, and I look forward to all the further reading in my future.
However, this book had its lows, too. The whole purpose Telfer set out to fulfill was to de-mystify the lady killer. But she kind of just added to the myth of it all by choosing such historical figures. It’s so easy to distance ourselves from something that happened hundreds and hundreds of years ago. The most recent was Nannie Doss, who killed her husbands in the 1950s. So some of it was “modern” but in any case, I felt like the book defeated its own purpose at times.
I also found this book to be repetitive. Out of all our known history, surely there were more women to choose from other than the same archetype over and over. There was very little diversity here at all; most of these women were white and lived in America, and on top of that, most of them were poisoners. Husband poisoners. I skimmed a few passages because one can only read so many descriptions of arsenic poisoning and inheritance claims before you snap, and end up in your own compendium of lady killers.
In all, this was a very human approach, which I loved. It was haunting and sometimes quite scary, chilling. I just wish there was more diversity in race, location, and weapon/victim. (No matter what the author’s note says.)