Friday, December 22, 2023

REVIEW: An Education in Malice by S.T. Gibson

An Education in Malice
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

An Education in Malice is a modern, sapphic retelling of Carmilla, the 1872 Gothic vampire novella by Sheridan Le Fanu that predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 25 years. It is a full-length novel (352 pages) that takes place at a university in Western Massachusetts. Being a Massachusetts native for the first 40 years of my life, before moving to California to escape the horrid winters, I appreciated the setting. :)

Being brought into a present-day setting and context worked very well for this novel. The relationship between Laura and Carmilla was intense and fraught with tension which made for a great story. And like the previous book, the writing was very descriptive, creating the perfect atmosphere that pulled you right into the narrative. I loved the emotional growth of Laura's character, while simultaneously breaking down Carmilla's walls and seeing her softer, more vulnerable side.

Unfortunately, I never read the original book, but OMG that cliffhanger at the end!! Did Laura drink the "Kool-aid" or what? ;)

This book releases February 13, 2024, but you can preorder it at Amazon, or enter for a chance to win one of 100 Kindle copies at Goodreads (giveaway ends 12/29/23).

Thanks to NetGalley and Redhook/Orbit Books for providing me with a digital advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

#AnEducationinMalice #NetGalley

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Sunday, December 17, 2023

REVIEW: A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson

A Dowry of Blood
My Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

The tale of the three brides of Dracula... as told by his first wife Constanta.

It's during the 15th century when he first approaches her on a battlefield. Left for dead, the dark stranger offers her eternal life by his side. They spend several centuries traveling the globe... happy and blissful for a while until the magic eventually wears off. Eventually, two more are drawn into their little family. But as jealousy and obsession turns to overbearing cruelty, the three consorts seek solace in each another in an attempt to put an end to their suffocating confinement and end regain their freedom.

The book is written in the second person epistolary format, with Constanta addressing her words to her vampire master, a full account of their life together. I found this was a threw me off at times as I'm not really used to reading fiction in the second person, especially when the YOU refers to a third person and not yourself as the reader. Dracula's name was not mentioned at all throughout the novel as Constanta decided to strip him of his name, and thus strip him of his power, so the reader is left to intuit whom Constanta is addressing. If you didn't read the description, you might assume it's just some random vamp.

The story was interesting though admittedly not a favorite. Throughout the tale, Constanta recollects the events of her lifetime beginning with when she first met and was turned by him, up until his fatal end and beyond. We also meet Magdalena and Alexi, an aristocrat and an artist respectively, who are later invited to join their family and are sired by Dracula, all of which greatly affects the dynamics of the group. She claims that she needs to put this account in writing in order to convince herself that all of it really happened. While the writing itself was poetic and emotional, there wasn't really a plot, which is why I think it didn't really hook me.

I'll be reading the ARC of An Education in Malice next, (pub date Feb 2024 - pre-order on Amazon here) so I wanted to read this first. Even though it's not a direct sequel, it looks like at least one of the characters from this book, Magdalena, makes an appearance as a minor character there.

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Saturday, December 09, 2023

REVIEW: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Knight

The Crowns of Croswald
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

A magical story reminiscent of Harry Potter.

Ivy Lovely is a scaldrony maid living a dull and tedious existence among the slurry fields of Castle Plum. Hidden away as a baby in the most unmagical of places, Ivy believes herself to be an orphan, knowing nothing of her former life. Until the day a large, flying creature unexpectedly shows up to transport her from her life of drudgery to an incredible magical school, and she discovers not only her magical bloodline, but a whole fantasy world she had only dreamed of. Except now that she's no longer hidden behind all that magic-dampening slurry, the spells that had previously kept her hidden have begun to unravel. Will Ivy be able to crush the curse before it crushes her and all she holds dear?

This was an enchanting read, reminiscent of Harry Potter with its magical school, and quite suitable for both young readers and adults alike. However, that's where the story similarities end. The Crowns of Croswald contains it's own unique story quite distinct from Harry or similar books. Ivy is a kickass MC—spunky, inquisitive, and full of adventure. Her escapades captivated me and took me places beyond my imagination. The world building was phenomenal with a richly drawn world and fun, lovable characters. So well written, it's hard to believe this was D.E. Knight's first book. I'm very much looking forward to reading the remaining books in this 4 part series.

Thanks to NetGalley and Stories Untold Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

#TheCrownsOfCroswald #NetGalley @author.denight

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Thursday, December 07, 2023

REVIEW: A Place for Vanishing by Ann Fraistat

A Place for Vanishing
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

An eerie and atmospheric gothic horror, complete with haunted house, séances, and ghosts! What more could a girl ask for?

After her bipolar diagnosis and suicide attempt (potential trigger warning), Libby and her family move into her mother's ancestral home attempting a fresh start. At first glance, the house appears to be hella creepy—decades of decay, an overabundance of creepy crawlies, and freaky stained glass windows depicting various insects and other unsettling scenes. Soon enough, Libby uncovers disturbing news about the house's sinister past including masked séances and strange disappearances, and begins to suspect the the answer to unlocking the truth lies in the strange insect masks attached to several of the windows.

"We all wear masks—to hide our imperfections, to make us stronger and braver. But if Libby keeps hers on for too long, she might just lose herself—and everyone she loves."

As you read, you come to realize just how multi-layered the above quote really is. Like the metaphorical masks worn by people like Libby to hide what's they're feeling inside, but also referring to the disturbing insect masks which not only house a spirit of their own, but also endow the wearer with supernatural abilities attributed to that particular insect.

This book was amazing! Hard to put down and kept me on the edge of my seat. I fell in love with the characters—they were so real and yet so broken. Libby's bipolar disorder was treated with respect and compassion, and it really added a whole other dimension to the story, as opposed to just being there for the sake of diversity. The character and world building was phenomenal as well, the tension slowly simmering throughout until everything really came to a boil at the final séance. I'm very much looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

A Place for Vanishing will be published on January 14, 2024, but you can preorder it at Amazon now.

Many thanks to Random House/Delacorte Press for providing me with a digital advance reader copy for review in exchange for my honest opinion.

#APlaceforVanishing #NetGalley

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Sunday, December 03, 2023

REVIEW: Bridge of Souls (Cassidy Blake #3) by Victoria Schwab

Bridge of Souls
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

The final book in the Cassidy Blake trilogy is both thrilling and soul-stirring. This time the family has arrived in New Orleans (a favorite locale of mine) and Cassidy has drawn the attention of an Emissary of Death, who wants to balance the scales by taking back what she stole from them (her life). The stakes are high and fraught with danger as Cassidy tries to save not only herself, but those she holds dear. A difficult choice and no right answers.

2 of Swords

I'm going to miss these characters now that I've finished the trilogy. This is only the second series I've read by Schwab, plus one standalone (I remember you Addie!) and every time I'm like, "this is one of the best books I've read!" so kudos to you, Victoria (V.E.) Schwab for always filling my plate, my imagination, and making me fall in love with your characters!

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