Book Review: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Pages: 418, hardcover
Source: Library

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 


The Wolf and the Woodsman was a bit of mixed bag. The beginning starts off really strong, with Évike’s village preparing for the arrival of the Woodsmen, holy soldiers who take one girl from the village to be given to the King. Reid throws us right into her world with the first line, informing us that the trees will run away when the Woodsmen come:

“The trees have to be tied down by sunset. When the Woodsmen come, they always try to run.”

Great, right?

For the beginning, I was fully thinking this would be a four or five star book. It reminded me of older McKinley or Yolen works. I did think Évike and the other girls her age read as a bit young; Évike is 25, but the dynamics and bullying she has to endure from some of the other girls her age made it seem like she was more in her late teens or very early twenties. This is an issue that stays with the book throughout. Évike never really came across as a 25 year old, just as a teenager. I’m not sure why I kept getting that impression, except that she was incredibly immature at times and acts in ways more suited to a teenager. I could ignore that, though, because I was in love with the world.

Then, well, Évike and Gáspár are the only two characters we’re with for at good long while, and the pacing–and story–sort of sputter to a slow crawl. I don’t mind character-driven books that move slowly. The problem I had was that, well, I could see why Reid was writing these scenes the way she did. She had to develop the relationship between the two leads; she had to introduce a plot device; she had to introduce two side characters. Maybe I’m not explaining this well, but she was never able to make me forget why she was writing these things, and it was very obviously set up for later plot. It felt a bit aimless and like she struggled with making it feel natural.

During this portion, Évike tells stories of her world, and this was something I enjoyed a lot. I don’t know anything about Hungarian mythology and it was great to first come across it in Reid’s writing. I’ve read other reviews that say this was boring and slowed the pace down again, and in a way, I can see how some readers would feel that way. There are, I think, at least three stories that Évike tells (I think Reid intentionally made it three to allude to the Rule of Three fairytale device). In my notes for this part I wrote down “starting to feel a little episodic” and I still stand by that. The events didn’t flow easily, as I said earlier.

(Big big spoiler for the ending here.) However… Reid has Évike lose the magical powers she’s only just developed in the novel as sacrifice for killing a sacred, mythical creature. While I agree this makes sense in the overall plot and world, I’m tired of female characters losing powers at the end of their arcs. It also made sense for Alina to lose her powers at the end of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, but it still feeds into a stereotypical story of how a powerful woman has to lose her powers at the end of whatever story she’s in. Either that, or she goes crazy from them. So again, while it makes sense, I’m still tired of seeing it happen. (End spoiler.)

Thankfully, if the reader can get through this part of the book, the middle and ending make up for a lot of the flaws. Reid finds her footing again as Évike tries to navigate a dangerous world and finds a family, and I loved all of this. The ending was great and had some amazing visuals that Reid was able to convey with her words. I could very easily see the things she was writing about, and it looked great in my mind.

So, when it’s on target, The Wolf and the Woodsman is spectacular, which is why it’s so noticeable and jarring when it loses itself a bit. Still, I enjoyed it enough to stick with it for 418 pages, and I’ll be looking into what Reid writes next.

Book Review: The White Rose Network by Ellie Midwood

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: February 9th, 2022
Pages: 281, paperback
Source: NetGalley

Sophie was born to be a rebel, raised by parents who challenged the brutal Nazi regime. Determined to follow in their footsteps, she leaves for university, defying Hitler’s command for women to stay at home.

On her first day in Munich, Sophie’s brother Hans introduces her to his dear friend. When she meets Alexander, with his raven-black hair and brooding eyes, she knows instantly that she isn’t alone. There are more courageous souls like her, who will fight against evil.

Together, and with others who also refuse to back down, they form the White Rose Network. In an underground vault, Sophie and Alexander conspire in whispers, falling in love as they plot against Hitler. Promising her heart to Alexander is the most dangerous act of all––with each risk they take, they get closer to capture.

As snowflakes fall on a frosty February morning, Sophie and her brother scatter Munich University with leaflets calling for resistance: “We will not be silent; we will not leave you in peace!”

But their lives hang in the balance, with the secret police offering a reward to anyone with information on the White Rose Network. It is only a matter of time before the Gestapo closes in… And when Sophie is imprisoned in an interrogation room, staring a Nazi officer in the eye, will she take their secrets to her grave? Will she sacrifice her freedom for love?

Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Alice Network and The Lilac Girls will be completely gripped by this heartbreaking and addictive page-turner. Based on a true story, this inspirational tale shows that, in the face of evil, giving up is not an option…

Ellie Midwood’s The White Rose Network is a fictionalized account of Sophie Scholl’s involvement in a student resistance against the Nazis in WWII Munich.

When Sophie arrives in Munich in the Spring of 1942 to study at the university, she has no idea that her brother Hans, his best friend Alex, and their fellow students have started publishing leaflets denouncing the Nazis. Sophie, despite being engaged to a Wehrmacht solider, is already a rebel, being one of only ten percent of women allowed to attend university. Her family do not support the Nazi regime, so it is natural that Sophie joins their group, called “The White Rose” and begins writing her own tracts.

Midwood uses contemporary sources and actual quotes which demonstrate the bravery and conviction of these students. Sophie’s refusal to condemn the others to save herself, despite the best efforts of her Gestapo interrogator to get her to do so, shows that, even in evil times, there are good people, and it is worth it to try to change things.

It’s not an easy read. You know not all of the group will survive the war, and there are definitely uncomfortable parallels to the political climates in several places. The content is rich, though, and Midwood brings each person vividly to life.

Book Review: Hot and Sour Suspects (A Noodle Shop Mystery #8) by Vivien Chien

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 25th, 2022
Pages: 320, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

At the Ho-Lee Noodle House, murder is on the menu.

When Lana Lee’s best friend, Megan Riley, asks her to help host a speed dating contest at Ho-Lee Noodle House, she doesn’t see the harm in lending a hand. The night goes better than anticipated, and both Lana and Megan are beyond thrilled with the results. But before they can break out the champagne, Rina Su, fellow Asia Village shop owner and speed dating participant, calls to inform Lana that the date she’s just matched with has been murdered. Under suspicion of foul play, Rina enlists Lana’s help in finding out what really happened that night.

Without hesitation, Lana begins to dig into the man in question. To her dismay, she quickly finds that Rina’s date has a rather unsavory past. There’s a long line of slighted women, angry neighbors, and perturbed co-workers—all of whom seem to have a motive.

As Lana continues to spiral down the treacherous path of scorned lovers and mistreated acquaintances, she can’t help but dwell on how quickly an innocent evening filled with hope and positivity could turn so sour. When the media gets in on the case, Lana must rush to find the killer before more dates turn deadly.

Hot and Sour Suspects is our eighth trip to Ho-Lee Noodle House, and this time, speed dating is on the menu. But when one of the daters turns up dead, and Lana’s friend Rina is the prime suspect, Lana, her best friend Megan, and her dog Kikko, along with the sometimes helpful, sometimes not assistance of Kimmy, have to save the day.

This is a solid series. Lana is a great heroine, and her relationships with her family and friends are a big part of what makes the series work. The characters are all so relatable and believable that you wish you could visit Asia Village, where Lana’s restaurant is.

Lana’s sleuthing skills are getting better, and her police officer boyfriend Adam seems to be dealing with her investigations better, even though this one is on his patch.

Lana has to juggle running the restaurant, investigating the murder, and doing damage control for a close relative when rumors start flying around Asia Village. Is this the life Lana wanted at the start of the series? No, but she’s embraced her role and we’ve seen great character development with her and her friends. The cases are interesting, but I read the series more for the characters.

Food, friends, and family make this series great, and I hope there are many more adventures for Lana.

A Trio of Small Book Reviews

Over the holiday season, I didn’t stop reading, but I did stop reviewing most of what I read. I did, however, write three small reviews for three books. Enjoy these extremely short, paragraph-long reviews!

Lore Olympus Volume 1 by Rachel Smythe

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I would have liked this way more if the coloring wasn’t so dark and muddied. I’m not sure if this is an issue of the coloring not translating well from computer screen to on-page; maybe it looks fine online. But here, it was almost impossible to see things like expressions on the characters in the first few episodes. It was frustrating; the art style is interesting! Let me, you know, actually see it!

It did get better in later episodes, somewhat. And Smythe has a good sense of comedic timing and comedy in her drawings. I’ll still look into the next volume, but I may have to bring a flashlight.

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m not sure how, exactly, Daryl Gregory is able to make Lovecraftian horror actually interesting to me, but he manages somehow. This is the first book where I really got how terrifying Lovecraft mythology can be.

Time to tear through the rest of his backlog.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (reread)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

So glad I decided to ignore my library stack and reread this one. I first read it in 2012, a year after it released. Ten years later, I approached it a very different person than I was then, and Deathless rang with new meaning for me. I could understand it better than I did ten years ago, feel it more deeply. I haven’t gone through anything as traumatic as Marya and the cast have gone through, no, but the last few years have done a number on me, and it was interesting to look at a favorite book from a newer, slightly more tarnished lens.

Book Review: King of Battle and Blood (Adrian x Isolde #1) by Scarlett St. Clair

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Genre: Fantasy Erotica
Publisher: Bloom Books
Publication Date: November 30th, 2021
Pages: 368, trade paperback
Source: Library

Isolde de Lara considers her wedding day her death day. To end a years-long war, she is to marry vampire king, Adrian Aleksandr Vasiliev, and kill him. ⠀

But her assassination attempt is thwarted and Adrian threatens that if Isolde tries kill him again, he will raise her as the undead. Faced with the possibility of becoming the thing she hates most, Isolde seeks other ways to defy him and survive the brutal vampire court. ⠀

Except it isn’t the court she fears most—it’s Adrain. Despite their undeniable chemistry, she wonders why the king——fierce, savage, merciless—chose her as consort. ⠀

The answer will shatter her world.

NOTE: I SPOIL EVERYTHING IN THIS REVIEW. I pretty much couldn’t in order to get to why some stuff bugged me. Proceed with caution!

Okay. Okay, to be totally fair, this is a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I don’t read erotica; I’ve tried in the past, and it just makes my little ace self uncomfortable because I can’t connect to why the characters would want to jump right into bed with each other. It makes no sense to me and authors don’t really try to convince me that that’s what should happen.

Still, the premise sounded… interesting. And I’ve heard good things about St. Clair’s Hades & Persephone series. I figured, why not?

But I’m sorry, y’all. I couldn’t take it seriously. I tried, I really did, but honestly my enjoyment of the book increased once I realized I couldn’t take it seriously. I was literally the Ryan Gosling gif I used above at some parts of the book.

St. Clair is a good writer, actually, when it comes to the technical aspect of things. I enjoyed her fight scenes and I was able to follow them well, which is a thing I struggle with sometimes in books. Isolde’s voice is distinct and her character is interesting, if occasionally holding the Idiot Ball because either the plot demands it or St. Clair wanted to get to the sex. Literally, at one point, Isolde is attacked by the Big Bad and, instead of being like “holy shit I just got attacked by the woman my husband has been looking for, I better go tell him what happened and everything she said because she said some weird ass shit” they have sex. And then she makes a little mention of what the Big Bad might have said, and when pressed for more, St. Clair takes the easy way out and has Isolde go, “Oh, I can’t really remember what she said.” Girl. C’mon. 

For instance, once Isolde is in the kingdom of vampires, her first priority should have been to begin reading up on the history of her new kingdom and going to court to observe and learn the dynamics at play. She does go to court… where Adrian immediately tells her that she’ll have to make decisions already. And then she kills a dude there, her first time out. This is normalized in the story. Honestly, when the kingdom is attacked by Adrian’s own people, I was kind of like, “Well, y’all are killing them left and right and ruling by brute force with occasional fairness. What did you expect?” You can’t rule a kingdom, even a kingdom of vampires, by killing anyone who looks at you funny. Courtly politics and intrigue and the roles royal women played in their worlds are very clearly not St. Clair’s forte.

But anyway, who cares about that? Let’s have another sex scene!

Isolde does eventually get off her ass and do, you know, her job, but it’s late in the game. So, after a few dozen pages of sex–both between Adrian and Isolde and Isolde just walking in on people having sex or people having sex out in the open where anyone can see them–the rest of the plot arrives, which I had guessed before the 50% point. Isolde is, in fact, the reincarnation of Adrian’s lover from before he was turned into a vampire, which is why she feels drawn to him immediately and can’t get enough of having sex with him. This is not at all examined in the story. She’s just like, “Oh, I had a past life where I died horrifically, and now the guy I loved in said past life is here and my husband, isn’t that grand?” There’s no allowing Isolde to process this at all. I dunno, y’all, I would have been a little bit more “WTF” but maybe that’s just me! Who cares about the implications and nuances of this reveal when we could have another sex scene or two?

It sounds like I hated this book, but I really didn’t. In fact, when the story wasn’t being twisted in order for St. Clair to shove in sex scenes, I liked what I read. I enjoyed her characters, though Adrian got on my nerves occasionally. The little world-building we get was solid enough. I appreciated that St. Clair made a fantasy world where queerness is normalized.

But like I said: My little ace self couldn’t take it seriously after a certain point. The sex scenes were clearly the most important thing to St. Clair here, and I get it, but maybe try not to make it so obvious?

I guess, in the end, I’ll always prefer romance novels that generally have feelings and chemistry and a bit of buildup before they get to the sex. That’s what makes sense to me.

Also, Adrian seemed to walk around with a near-constant boner. It must be his vampire abilities that keep him from passing out all the time from the lack of blood to the head on his shoulders.

Book Review: Seven Mercies (Seven Devils #2) by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication Date: January 25th, 2022
Pages: 464, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

The second book in a feminist space opera duology that follows the team of seven rebels who will free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire–or die trying.

After an ambush leaves the Novantae resistance in tatters, the survivors scatter across the galaxy. Wanted by two great empires, the bounty on any rebel’s head is enough to make a captor filthy rich. And the seven devils? Biggest score of them all. To avoid attacks, the crew of Zelus scavenge for supplies on long-abandoned Tholosian outposts.

Not long after the remnants of the rebellion settle briefly on Fortuna, Ariadne gets a message with unimaginable consequences: the Oracle has gone rogue. In a planned coup against the Empire’s new ruler, the AI has developed a way of mass programming citizens into mindless drones. The Oracle’s demand is simple: the AI wants One’s daughter back at any cost.

Time for an Impossible to Infiltrate mission: high chance of death, low chance of success. The devils will have to use their unique skills, no matter the sacrifice, and pair up with old enemies. Their plan? Get to the heart of the Empire. Destroy the Oracle. Burn it all to the ground.

Gina’s Review

Seven Mercies is the sequel to Seven Devils, and continues the story of the rebellion led by the former heir to the Tholosian Empire. In the Empire, the Archon controls the populace by means of the Oracle, a powerful AI.

The Devils are on the run. Most of their forces have abandoned them, and they have no allies. One of them will be dead soon without a cure for the ichor. The One wants her programmer back, and is willing to enslave all of humanity to make it happen. The odds couldn’t be more stacked against them, until a bit of intel from the most unlikely of potential allies gives them one last shot for the freedom of the galaxy. The stakes are high, and Eris, former heir to the throne, knows that she will have to pay her god in more deaths before they are done.

The relationships between the characters grow stronger, but there are still times when they don’t act as a cohesive unit, and members pursue their own agendas. We learn the backstories for several of them, and those stories serve to further illustrate how despotic the Empire is.

The book clocks in at 464 pages, and at times, it feels like it. Each of the characters, with the exception of Kyla, has a fully fleshed-out story arc/tangent, and there’s a lot of exposition. It’s good exposition, but this is not a quick or easy read.

Lam and May have done a great job of tying up all the loose ends and have given a satisfactory, if somewhat formulaic, ending to the duology.

Book Review: Rosebud by Paul Cornell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publication Date: April 26th, 2022
Pages: 112, paperback
Source: NetGalley

“The crew of the Rosebud are, currently, and by force of law, a balloon, a goth with a swagger stick, some sort of science aristocrat possibly, a ball of hands, and a swarm of insects.”

When five sentient digital beings—condemned for over three hundred years to crew the small survey ship by the all-powerful Company—encounter a mysterious black sphere, their course of action is clear: obtain the object, inform the Company, earn lots of praise.

But the ship malfunctions, and the crew has no choice but to approach the sphere and survey it themselves. They have no idea that this object—and the transcendent truth hidden within—will change the fate of all existence, the Company, and themselves.

I like Paul Cornell’s work, even when I’m not sure I’ve entirely gotten the message. Such is the case with Rosebud. It’s as if 2001 had been written by John Dickson Carr, perhaps. It’s a mystery inside an enigma inside a, well, you get the idea.

There are five sentient digital beings who are being punished for crimes against society. Their job is to investigate anomalies. Upon encountering a mysterious sphere, they decide to investigate and then must decide what to do with forbidden knowledge.

I found myself distracted by the physical forms the digital beings took. I suppose that if you’ve been locked up for several hundred years, you have to take your freedoms where you can, but it didn’t really add anything to the story for me, and it made it a bit harder to keep track of who was whom. The characters themselves are interesting, and I wanted to know more about them.

The pop culture references were fun. It does seem to be a thing for a lot of books lately, but I have to wonder whether people will really be quoting cult classics several hundred years from now, the way we do, say, Shakespeare.

Gina’s Favorite Books of 2021

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by T.L. Huchu

Ropa Moyo’s ghostalking practice has tanked, desperate for money to pay bills and look after her family she reluctantly accepts a job to look into the history of a coma patient receiving treatment at the magical private hospital Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments. The patient is a teenage schoolboy called Max Wu, and healers at the hospital are baffled by the illness which has confounded medicine and magic.

Ropa’s investigation leads her to the Edinburgh Ordinary School for Boys, one of only the four registered schools for magic in the whole of Scotland (the oldest and only one that remains closed to female students).

But the headmaster there is hiding something and as more students succumb Ropa learns that a long-dormant and malevolent entity has once again taken hold in this world.

She sets off to track the current host for this spirit and try to stop it before other lives are endangered.

Miranda’s Favorite Books of 2021

In 2021, I read 192 books, surpassing my goal of 150. My best month was July, where I read 28 books (though a large chunk of them were easy picture books or graphic novels/manga). Maybe in 2022 I’ll put my reading challenge at 200 books — but maybe not. That’s a lot of books.

This year I tried to branch out into reading more horror. I’m still getting my toes wet, but I’m making good progress, I think.

In the past, I haven’t typically done reading goals. I’m a huge mood reader so I fail challenges a lot because I’m not in the right mood to read something that qualifies for the challenge. That being said, there are two challenges I’m setting for myself for 2022:

  • Read at least two classics.
    I’m thinking Jane Eyre will be one of them, definitely, but I’m still undecided on the second. Any suggestions?
  • Read at least 3 books from my weeding piles at work a month.
    I work in a library and we do a thing called “weeding” — basically pulling old, damaged, outdated books with inaccurate information, or otherwise unpopular books from the shelves and taking them out of the system. This frees up much needed shelf space for new books. We give the weeded books to Better World Books, but we’re free to pick from the pile whenever we want and take the weeded books we find home.
    I have… a very large pile. No, not just a pile. Several. They’ve been slowly growing over the last seven years of my employment, and I can’t take them home because I’m out of shelf space. So! New goal: Clear out my weeding piles by actually reading the books, then sending them on their way to BWB.

Now on to my favorite books of 2022! I narrowed it down to four that really stayed with me after I read them. They are:

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

As I said in my review, I’ve long been a fan of Margaret Owen. I was stupidly excited to get an ARC of this through NetGalley, and I devoured it eagerly. Not only that, though. Y’all, I actually went out and bought a hardcover copy. My protocol is, if I’ve read it for free, I don’t buy it, and since I can get most books through my job, I don’t buy a lot of new hardcovers due to the cost, but… I had to own this one. I had to. Especially because it came with Owen’s drawings that weren’t included in the ARC. I’m so excited that we’re getting a sequel.

Revelator by Daryl Gregory

This is probably my biggest surprise of 2021. I hadn’t heard of Daryl Gregory before this. I stumbled across this title by looking at a list of some sort — I can’t remember, but it might have been a best Gothics or best horror list — and the premise intrigued me. However, I’m very picky about what male authors I read, and modern Gothics tend to be hit or miss for me. Still, I decided to request it from work and see.
Surprisingly, I loved it. I had worried it would be a little more literary than I like, but the writing style wasn’t at all too literary. I loved the characters, the worldbuilding was fascinating, and the plot had me hooked. I definitely kept thinking about Revelator long after I finished it. I’m looking to read some of Gregory’s other work now, and I hope it’s just as good.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

After Revelator, this is probably my second biggest surprise of 2021. I read Starling’s The Luminous Dead and, while I liked it, it hadn’t wowed me. I was on the fence about reading this at all, but I’m a sucker for Gothics. I decided to go ahead and give it a try.
This is definitely not going to be a book for everyone. It gets weird. Really, really, super duper weird. But I loved every batshit second. I thought the magic system Starling created was interesting and I loved Jane’s character. It goes bonkers in ways that a lot of modern Gothics don’t have the courage to do, in my opinion. As soon as I finished it, I told my workplace we needed to buy Yellow Jessamine by her, as it looks to be more Gothic goodness.

All the Feels by Olivia Dade

The second book in her Spoiler Alert romance series, All the Feels left me laughing and crying. Like, a lot of crying. Alex and Lauren’s relationship was a joy to read about, and the banter was hilarious and endearing. This just barely made the favorites of 2021 list, as I read it on December 27th and 28th. It squeaked by with tires screeching and I’m so glad it did. As a fat woman myself–one who still participates in fandom and writes fanfic–I loved seeing bits of myself in Lauren. I liked especially how the big split near the end wasn’t a case of the man doing something stupid and having to make it up entirely to the woman, as sometimes happens in romance books. Both characters make huge mistakes that cause the break up. And both characters have their apology moment as well. I’m impatiently waiting for Dade’s third entry to this series, of which we know nothing, but I’m sure it’ll be another great romance.

Honorable Mention

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

I read the first book in the series, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, and found it to be a likeable but pretty predictable debut. I loved Pip’s character, though, and I wanted to see what Jackson did with the character after the traumatic plot she went through in the first book. Plus, I tend to give second novels a try if I like the debut well enough — once an author finds their feet in the publishing world, their writing typically gets better. I wanted to see if that was true for Jackson.
Holy wow, was it. The writing was much more subtle this time around, and the red herrings were much more convincing. I wasn’t able to predict what the mystery was or where it was going like I had in the first book. I even cried through the ending.
Not only that, but I went out and bought the hardcover of the third book, As Good As Dead, because the waitlist for a copy at my job is just too long. I intend to make it my first read of 2022.

So that’s it from me! Gina’s favorites will be posted tomorrow. What were your favorite reads of 2022?