ARC Review: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: ARC via publisher

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it. 

Let me just start this review off by saying that The Lady Rogue was one of my most anticipated books for the entirety of 2019. Jenn Bennett is one of my all-time favorite authors (if not the favorite, I mean… just look at that drawing of me holding Starry Eyes below) and I basically devour everything that she ever writes. As much as it pains me to say it, The Lady Rogue and I did not click as much as I’d hoped.

Part of this, I think, is definitely me. It’s been a stressful few weeks in this household. Major life changes are coming and I’ve had very little time to read. I’ve been in the mood for something I can sit down and finish in one sitting, not a book that would take several hours of my time.

I picked this one up and put it right back down a few times in the past month because I just couldn’t get into it. But I threw this book in my backpack when I took a quick weekend trip to Tennessee, just on the off chance that I’d get a minute to read it, and ended up with a cancelled flight and, finally, a lot of time to read. And while it might have taken me several weeks to get into it, once I got into it, I finished it in a couple of hours.

All of this is to say that this is not a bad book. There is nothing inherently wrong with this book. And three stars is not a bad rating! It’s one of those it’s not you, it’s me kind of things.

I will explain.

First things first, what I liked. As always, I love Jenn Bennett’s writing style. She’s one of those writers that, once I get absorbed in the book, I can just go for hours without stopping. The action was steady, but never too much. I loved our main character, Theo, and her adventures traipsing around Europe in search of a mystical ring and her missing father.

Now, for what I wasn’t so sold on. I’ve spent a little bit of time sitting here thinking about why exactly I didn’t love this book as much as I’ve loved Jenn Bennett’s other work, and I think a lot of it comes down to the genre. I’ve had a hard time recently getting into this fantastical kind of adventure story recently (see The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy).

I also associate Jenn Bennett with cute contemporary romances (see Starry Eyes, Alex, Approximately, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, Serious Moonlight) and although there’s the barest hint of a romance here, it felt kind of like an afterthought. Huck was definitely my least favorite of Bennett’s love interests and I really struggled to feel any chemistry between him and Theo. But, again, romance isn’t really the point of this book. The adventure is the point, and I kept having to remind myself of that.

I think, all in all, that The Lady Rogue is a really well-written, really fun YA historical fantasy. If you go into it knowing that’s what it is and are prepared for it to be very different from Bennett’s previous work, you’ll probably enjoy it. Even though it wasn’t my favorite of her work, I can still appreciate the good writing and the good story, and I’m so excited to read whatever she comes up with next.


#arcaugust
#mm19: mode of transportation


Have you read The Lady Rogue? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Reading Challenge Update

Well, here we are again. Time to take a look at my reading challenge progress!

Monthly Motif is a reading challenge hosted by girlxoxo.

July’s theme was through the years. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked with this theme, but I did read two books that I think should qualify.

I also read the first fifty pages of The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett before I realized that I wasn’t really in a historical fiction mood.

August’s theme is mode of transportation, so we’ll see what ends up happening there.

I read a total of 11 books in June, which puts me 38 books ahead of my goal.

Popsugar hosts a reading challenge every year. You can find out more information on their website.

I read one book that counted for a Popsugar prompt in July:

Romanceopoly is a reading challenge hosted by Under the Covers and Peace Love Books.

I didn’t read any books toward this challenge in July!

This challenge is still on hold for now. I’ll probably pick it back up at some point this fall.


How are you doing on your reading challenges? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let’s talk in the comments!

Book Review: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Series: Early Earth
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 20, 2016
Source: Purchased

In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, a beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret legacy of female storytellers in an imagined medieval world.

In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle–and Cherry.

But what Jerome doesn’t know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.

As intricate and richly imagined as the works of Chris Ware, and leavened with a dry wit that rivals Kate Beaton’s in Hark! A Vagrant, Isabel Greenberg’s One Hundred Nights of Hero will capture readers’ hearts and minds, taking them through a magical medieval world. 

You might remember me reviewing The Encyclopedia of Early Earth not too long ago. I ended up buying The One Hundred Nights of Hero since I enjoyed both the art style and the subtle humor in The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and I was not disappointed.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero is the story of a young woman, Cherry, who is married to an evil man, Jerome, who bets a friend that he can’t seduce Cherry while Jerome is away. If his friend, Manfred, succeeds in seducing Cherry, Jerome is willing to give him both his castle and his wife. When Cherry finds out about the wager, she knows that Manfred will do everything in his power to sleep with her, including by force if necessary. Luckily, her maid, friend, and lover Hero is a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers and weaves stories, night after night, to keep Manfred distracted from the seduction.

I loved the larger story here, including the positive portrayal of a f/f relationship in a time when that was not accepted, but what I really adored were Hero’s stories. The stories were empowering, fantastical, and whimsical. The stories could be a bit quirky and a bit sassy at times, but everything balanced so well that I don’t really have any complaints.

I had initially thought I’d rate this four stars, but looking back… there’s nothing I didn’t like, so it turns out it’s a five.

#mm19: through the years


Have you read The One Hundred Nights of Hero? What about The Encyclopedia of Early Earth? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Slam, The Next Jam by Pamela Ribon

Slam, The Next Jam by Pamela Ribon
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Source: Borrowed

In the fast-paced, hard-hitting, super cheeky, all-female world of banked track roller derby, two young women will need to balance the pull of budding relationships and family obligations with the demands and excitement of roller derby. 

After breaking one of the biggest rules in derby (not to mention an actual collarbone) Knockout and Can-Can are back on the track! But they have a lot of rehab to do, both on their battered bodies and their reputations in the league…will their friendship survive the dreaded derby drama?

From bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and Los Angeles Derby Doll Pamela Ribon (Going In Circles, Why Girls Are Weird) and artist Marina Julia (Lumberjanes: Faire and Square) comes the next chapter in SLAM!.

After being so pleasantly surprised by volume one of Slam, I was really excited to jump into what I thought was volume two. It turns out that while Slam: The Next Jam is technically volume two in the series, it’s also considered a new series and the numbering resets at one. As if that isn’t confusing enough, we’ve also got a new artist, so while the characters are sort of identifiable, they also look surprisingly different.

While the pacing in the first volume was fast, I didn’t feel as though the actual work was rushed. I can’t say the same for The Next Jam. Everything in this volume, from the artwork to the storyline to the character development (or lack thereof) feels like it was assembled in about five minutes.

I might have finished volume one of this graphic novel feeling impressed, but I just finished volume two feeling disappointed. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I won’t be continuing on with this one.

#mm19: diversify your reading


Have you read Slam? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.

Sometimes I come across a book that I just need to read, and The Music of What Happens was one of those books. I mean… two teenage boys running a food truck by themselves during the middle of an Arizona summer? Complete opposites with a ton of chemistry? Contemporary YA touching on serious issues without being over-the-top about it? SIGN ME UP.

I’ll start off by saying that I loved everything about the food truck. I mean, as it is, I love food trucks. But the idea of two teenage boys with absolutely no idea of how to run a food truck actually doing it — and doing well at it, at that — was a lot of fun. I’m not entirely sold on their food menu, but the drinks? Goodness. Can I have a frozen mango habanero lemonade right now?

And let me just say that I loved Max and Jordan. Or maybe I should say that I finished this book loving both Max and Jordan, because while I liked Max from the beginning, it took a while for Jordan to grow on me. Because Jordan is, above all else, extremely dramatic. One of those people that responds to a tiny criticism by screaming and crying and thinking that everybody on the entire planet must hate him. But as the book goes on, he mellows a lot and we also come to understand why he acts the way he does. And Jordan’s not the only character with good development. As the book goes on, Max learns to open up and talk about his feelings and not keep everything bottled up inside.

Now, this book does touch on several really heavy issues. This can be hit or miss for me in a book, but I think Konigsberg handled it really well. The issues are there. They’re almost always present, at least in the background, but they’re not present to the point that they feel suffocating. I guess this is the point in the review where I mention the content warnings for rape, racism, parental neglect, and addiction.

I was really torn between giving this book four and five stars. In the end, I had a little bit of a problem with the ending so I went with four. The problem, for me, was that Konigsberg brought up all of these big issues and, although some of them were dealt with, one of them was really just sort of left hanging. It’s so hard to talk about this without spoiling the ending, but I just felt that one of the issues wasn’t really given the attention it deserved at the end.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this book and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

#mm19: diversify your reading


Have you read The Music of What Happens? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Reading Challenge Update

Well, here we are again. Time to take a look at my reading challenge progress!

Monthly Motif is a reading challenge hosted by girlxoxo.

June’s theme was diversify your reading. This is my favorite monthly motif prompt. (We did it last year, too.) I ended up reading a ton of books for this one!

July’s theme is through the years. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to read until I looked at The Lady Rogue and saw it’s set in 1930s Romania!

I read a total of 17 books in June, which puts me 36 books ahead of my goal.

Popsugar hosts a reading challenge every year. You can find out more information on their website.

I read three books that counted toward my Popsugar challenge in June:

Romanceopoly is a reading challenge hosted by Under the Covers and Peace Love Books.

I finally feel like I’m making some progress on this challenge! I checked off four prompts in June.

The prompts I checked off were:

Modern Mrs. Darcy hosts a reading challenge every year. You can find more information on the website.

I am very, very happy to report that I finished this challenge! I checked off the last two prompts in June, which were:

I made the executive decision to put this challenge on hold for the time being so that I can get caught up on library books and ARCs. I ended up knocking out a few ARCs that I needed to read in June:


How are you doing on your reading challenges? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let’s talk in the comments!

Mini Review: Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 30, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A short, powerful, illustrated book written by Khaled Hosseini in response to the current refugee crisis, Sea Prayer is composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone. 

Impelled to write this story by the haunting image of young Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed upon the beach in Turkey in September 2015, Hosseini hopes to pay tribute to the millions of families, like Kurdi’s, who have been splintered and forced from home by war and persecution, and he will donate author proceeds from this book to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund lifesaving relief efforts to help refugees around the globe. Hosseini is also a Goodwill Envoy to the UNHCR, and the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

I have heard it said we are the uninvited.
We are the unwelcome.
We should take our misfortune elsewhere. 
But I hear your mother’s voice,
over the tide.
and she whispers in my ear,
“Oh, but if they saw, my darling.
Even half of what you have.
If only they saw.
They would say kinder things, surely.”

This is going to be a very short review because this is a very short book. I read it in just a few minutes, but it left an impression. This little book is a prayer from a father for his son and, oh my, it really made me feel things. It’s only 48 pages long, but by the time I finished, I wanted to cry.

This is the first work I’ve read by Hosseini and now I can’t even imagine why. If he was able to break my heart in 48 pages, I can’t imagine what he can do with a full-length novel.

#mm19: diversify your reading
#ps19: a book written by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America


Have you read Sea Prayer? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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