BOOK REVIEW: Ruinsong, by Julia Ember

BOOK REVIEW: Ruinsong, by Julia EmberTitle: Ruinsong by Julia Ember
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Published: November 24th, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
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In Julia Ember's dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country's disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen's bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.

Ruinsong is a YA fantasy in which the voice is a central part of the magic system. I’m not familiar at all with The Phantom of the Opera, but apparently this is being marketed as a queer The Phantom of the Opera retelling. However, I wanted to read it because it’s sapphic fantasy and that cover is amazing.

Cadence is a mage who has been forced to use her voice to torture her country’s nobility at the queen’s bidding to make them compliant. When she and her family are discovered to be part of the rebellion, Remi is imprisoned and discovers that her childhood friend, Cadence, is no longer the person she remembers. Remi’s return helps Cadence find her voice (literally and figuratively) underneath the ruthless, power-hungry queen’s gaze, and they both navigate the more conservative nobility’s society compared to the more open outlook of the rebellion.

I enjoyed reading this! I don’t think the concepts of the novel were anything new or revolutionary, but it was well done for what it was and I loved the main characters a lot. The magic system is the most developed part of the world-building, but with the power of the voice being such a central theme to the story, I didn’t mind that I didn’t know much about the world in which they inhabited outside of the palace because I think I would have felt that knowing much more would have been too much. All I know is that I would have devoured this even more fifteen years ago, and I’m so glad that readers younger than me have the opportunity to read a fantasy book like this, with wlw, fancy dresses, high stakes, and learning how to harness one’s voice for the right thing, no matter how difficult it seems to be.

Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) for a review copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey

BOOK REVIEW: The Echo Wife, by Sarah GaileyTitle: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tor Books
Published: February 16 2021
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Science Fiction
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
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The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of Killing Eve and Westworld­

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be.

And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.

When they said all happy families are alike, this can’t be what they meant...

Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife reminds me so much of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein crossed with a domestic thriller in the sense of examining the question: how much responsibility do we carry for our creations?

Evelyn Caldwell’s research leads to genetically cloned replicas of people, and her entire life is shattered when she discovers that her husband stole her research and created her clone – a “better” version of herself so that he could have what he wanted out of their marriage. Evelyn is a workaholic who prefers to work to starting a family, so when she discovers that Nathan, her husband, is wanting a divorce because he has created an Evelyn clone named Martine who is everything Evelyn couldn’t be for him – including being the mother of his child. The twist in general domestic thrillers usually ends here, but this is where the story actually begins.

Clones, by design, should not be able to get pregnant, but Martine clearly is carrying Nathan’s child. This is only the survace of the story, and it dives deeper and deeper into uncanny territory the more Evelyn gets to know Martine. Everything takes a complete turn when Evelyn receives a call from Martine saying she has killed Nathan. The only way the two decide to cover this up as Martine’s existence, and pregnancy, are illegal, is to create a clone of Nathan. As they bury and re-bury Nathan’s body in the backyard, Evelyn and Martine realize they have only scratched the surface of what Nathan has done.

I loved this so much. I’ve loved every single book Gailey has written, and I’m sure I’ll love everything they’ll ever write. They have such a knack for taking a trope, running with it, and twisting it so that you have to continue reading to see how everything unfolds and resolves. This is one of my favorite science fiction and thriller books I’ve read in a bit, and I’ll be recommending this one to everyone on its release in February. And I’m sorry you have to wait that long to get your hands on this, but believe me, it’s well worth your time and consideration, because I hope, like me, you’ll continue thinking about the nature of personal responsibility in the aftermath of creating something.

Thank you to Tor and Netgalley for an early copy to read and review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Fable, by Adrienne Young

BOOK REVIEW: Fable, by Adrienne YoungTitle: Fable by Adrienne Young
Series: Fable #1
Published by Wednesday Books
Published: September 1st 2020
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
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As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn't who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they're going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

You weren’t made for this world, Fable.

I have a weakness for pirate and pirate-related stories, especially when they’re female character centered. Adrienne Young’s Fable is the first book in a duology that follows a young woman named Fable who has been left on an island by her father with the directive to get off that island. Once she gets off the island by spending the last of her coin, Fable begins to realize there is so much more to the world in which she lives and to which she discovers she belongs than she had ever imagined.

As a dredger, Fable dives to collect stones in the sea, and she keeps to herself that she has a knack for discerning the truth about stones and gems. During her voyage on The Marigold, the crew learns that Fable’s stone-scrying ability isn’t just a hunch or a knack; she could be a stone sage, one who intuitively knows everything about a particular stone and its value. Her abilities as a stone sage tie into her family, and the more she learns about her father who left her on the island and her mother who died in a wreck the more she learns about herself and who she is – and who she’s meant to be.

To Fable, nobody is who they present themselves to be. Everyone, including her, carries secrets that are only revealed in time. The book itself is slow to open and slow to make these revelations, and once they are revealed I was left both satisfied and wanting more. By the time the action picked up and carried me through the last third of the novel, it was over and left on a cliffhanger that made me glad the sequel is releasing in only a few months! Each of the characters lean more toward the morally grey area that seems relatively popular in YA fantasy these days, and this leans into the grimdark style of fantasy too. It’s a harsh world, and you can only survive if you keep the soft, quiet things close to your heart.

Even though the world-building takes up quite a chunk of this first installment of a duology, it never felt unnecessary. The tension created from the first line ties all of this story together (and hopefully through the sequel!), and the tension kept me turning the pages to see where and how it would all tie together. I was not disappointed, and I can’t wait to see how all of this ends. If you like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Princess Bride, I think this one will be right up your alley.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for an advance copy to read and review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: What Cats Want, by Dr. Yuki Hattori

BOOK REVIEW: What Cats Want, by Dr. Yuki HattoriTitle: What Cats Want: An Illustrated Guide for Truly Understanding Your Cat by Dr. Yuki Hattori
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Published: October 27th 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 160
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
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From the top feline doctor in Japan comes a fun, practical, adorably illustrated "cat-to-human" translation guide to decoding your cat's feelings.

When your cat's tail is upright, she's saying hello. If it's quivering? She's happy to see you. But if it swishes ominously from side to side across your living room floor? Beware-your cat is annoyed.

With nineteen bones and twelve muscles, cats' tails have countless ways of expressing their emotions. What Cats Want is here to uncover the meaning behind every movement, and the motivation beneath every quirk. Did you know, for example, that adult cats love to reconnect with their inner kitten? Or that cats prefer multiple watering holes over just one? Our cats are sophisticated-no matter what any dog lover says-and What Cats Want has the answers to every question asked by cat owners young and old.

An invaluable new guide filled with creative tips and darling illustrations, What Cats Want provides a much-desired glimpse into the minds of our most mysterious pets.

Written by a top Japanese cat veterinarian Dr. Yuki Hattori, What Cats Want is an adorable guide to raising and caring for your cat. This an especially great introductory guide to new cat owners as it breaks down a lot of facts clearly and informatively, and it has a lot of good reference information about cat health and cat behavior for people who have had cats for pets for years. It’s fun, informative, and accessible. I hadn’t expected to read it in one sitting but I did, and I found myself learning a few things as well!

The illustrations alone make the book worth a look through, and I’m looking forward to purchasing my own physical copy once the book releases in October! The illustrator captures cat behavior, moods, and emotions <I>perfectly</i>, and I found myself recognizing several of the cats in my life in the pages. I especially loved the illustrations of cat moods, cat meows, and cat body language!

One thing I kept thinking while reading it was that this would make a perfect gift for new cat parents or longtime cat parents.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and Netgalley for an advance digital review copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Head Over Heels, by Hannah Orenstein

BOOK REVIEW: Head Over Heels, by Hannah OrensteinTitle: Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
Published by Atria Books
Published: June 23, 2020
Genres: Romance
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.
Now, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations. Despite her misgivings and worries about the memories it will evoke, Avery agrees. Back in the gym, she’s surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan. But when a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world breaks, it has shattering effects not only for the sport but also for Avery and her old friend Jasmine.

I have loved every single one of Hannah Orenstein’s books since her debut Playing With Matches, and I have it on good authority that I will love every single book she’ll write, too. Head Over Heels follows the (now-alternate universe) trajectory of Avery, a former gymnast with the Olympics in view, becoming a coach to an up-and-coming gymnast when Avery moves back to her hometown after a breakup and a need to start fresh in some way. However, when Avery returns home, she feels like she’s living in the shadow of her former life. Reconnecting with her past and reconciling the future that never was, Avery has to confront everything she has tried to leave behind — her childhood friend who ended up going to the Olympics and doing everything she dreamed of doing, her parents, her former coach, her former crush, and all of the intricacies and difficulties associated with what she has tried to leave behind.

One thing that Orenstein does really well in each of her books is a balance between that perfect rom-com fluff and an engaging amount of emotional and thematic depth. To me, the characters and their reactions and responses to the world in which they live seem true and well-balanced. The settings in which these characters exist and the world created for them feels like something I could watch on a big, cinematic screen and in which I could get lost for a few hours. I don’t know the first thing about gymnastics aside from a casual viewing here and there whenever the Olympics are on television, but Orenstein makes you care and makes you want to know more, and it’s obvious this is a subject dear to her heart. She tackles the heavier subjects and the #metoo movement within the gymnastics sphere incredibly well and with a lot of grace, and that’s something I think is difficult to achieve.

This is a well-rounded contemporary romance that kept me hooked from the first page, so if you’re looking for a bright summer romance with a lot of heart, check out Head Over Heels, and then read the rest of Orenstein’s fiction if you haven’t yet!

Many thanks to Atria for sending me an advance reader’s copy; all opinions are my own!