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A Long Time Dead

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A Long Time Dead Samara Breger, 2023 Premise: An epic romance. A sumptuous historical love story. A vampire story. So maybe you loved Fingersmith, ( https://bluefairysbookshelf.blogspot.com/2014/03/fingersmith.html ), but thought it would be better with overt supernatural elements.  Or maybe you like the themes of Carmilla and its relations ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian_vampire ), but want a true romance, with hopefully some kind of happiness for the characters.  Well, have I got a book written specifically for you!  A Long Time Dead follows the life and undeath of a Poppy, a cheerful hedonist and (in life) prostitute, who feels drawn to another vampire, the reserved and serious Roisin. They cannot be together for several reasons, most notably because Roisin has sworn to take down her master, the cruel and powerful Cane.  Poppy is a delight. Her adventures through the societies of the undead, her struggles, her general good humor (except for mourning the fact that she can no

Fourth Wing

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Fourth Wing Rebecca Yarros, 2023 Premise: Violet's mom is making her go to dragon rider school even though she doesn't want to and it's dangerous. But her sworn enemy is hot. Somehow these characters are not teenagers.  I tried, y'all. I tried to go in with an open mind. The writing isn't terrible, in that the pacing mostly trips along briskly, some of the description is fine, and the exciting bits are sometimes kind of exciting.  But MY GOD. The vapid characters, the complete lack of interesting or believable world-building, and the extremely predictable plot "twists" had me struggling to make it to the end.  You're telling me the hot rebel guy is actually nice, and also on the morally right side? I'm so shocked.  And then the narration awkwardly has to remind us that our heroine is 20, so we can stick in an explicit sex scene.  Y'all. I am not against sex scenes. And these were.... fine? Not terrible. But they didn't progress the plot or

Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, Book 2)

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Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, Book 2) Tamsyn Muir, 2020 Premise: Sequel to Gideon the Ninth . Harrow has survived the trials of Cannan House. Sort of. Now she must train to fight a monster that can kill the God-Emperor of the Nine Houses... unless nothing is as it seems. Man, this book is awesome, but it asks a lot of you.  The first time I read it, it was like a fantastic psychological horror movie. The book switches back and forth between the present-day Harrow and flashbacks. Only the flashbacks don't match what happened in the previous book. You, the reader, know that something is wrong. Something is askew. Is it in Harrow's mind? What does this mean? What actually happened then? What is happening now? The answers are wilder and weirder than I initially could have imagined. It's fantastic. The third time I read this book, it was as an audiobook, which made me slow down and really appreciate all the details and character beats. The emotional payoffs in this one are

The Last Graduate and The Golden Enclaves (The Scholomance, Book 2 and 3)

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The Last Graduate and The Golden Enclaves (The Scholomance, Book 2 and 3) Naomi Novik, 2021, 2022 Premise: Sequels to A Deadly Education . El and her friends cook up an audacious scheme to get out of high school alive, only to discover that life outside the Scholomance is stalked by deadlier dangers.  (Thematic spoilers for this series below, but no explicit plot spoilers except for the one implied by the title of book two.) So I liked book one, right? And from the title of the second book, I was pretty sure our heroes were going to find a way around the whole "every group of kids has to run this deadly gauntlet to escape the high school" status quo.  And they did, and it was awesome. However, it was really in the third book where this series shifted gears and revealed its heart. It isn't just about characters growing up. It isn't just about kids with magic in a dangerous world. There's no big bad guy to fight, although there are dangerous power players.  It'

Mammoths at the Gates (The Singing Hills Cycle, Book 4)

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Mammoths at the Gates (The Singing Hills Cycle, Book 4 Nghi Vo, 2023 Premise: Follows Into the Riverlands, although these books can mostly be read in any order. Cleric Chih is finally headed home after many adventures, only to run into trouble at the abbey's very doors. Like each of the preceding novellas, this is both an entertaining fantasy adventure and a beautiful meditation. In this case, the deeper meaning is focused on memory.  When Chih returns home to the Singing Hills Abbey, they discover that most of the other inhabitants are off on a special investigation and their beloved mentor has passed away. This would be stressful enough without the mentor's granddaughters, their soldiers, and their very large mammoths demanding the elder cleric's body, contrary to Abbey tradition.  That's the surface story. The real story is about remembering someone who is gone, and all the stories, contradictory and complex as they may be, that make up a life. It's also about

Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, Book 1)

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Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, Book 1) Tamsyn Muir, 2019 Read to the end...  Premise: Gideon has been trying to escape the Ninth House since she was a child. Now her only way out might be to accompany her nemesis Harrowhark in her quest to become one of the Emperor's chosen necromancers. But the trial to become a lyctor is far from safe for necromancers and their bodyguards. I know, I know, I'm late to the party here.  I can nitpick about some intentionally anachronistic word choices that were a smidge too tone-breaking for me. I could point out that at the end of the book I still understand almost nothing about the structure of this Empire, how big it is, what it means that the Emperor "resurrected" the Houses, how the Houses are even supposed to work.  But little of that matters.  Gideon's sarcastic, hilarious voice carries you through the beginning and the light exposition about the bonkers uber-goth-necromancers-somehow-built-a-society setting, and then t

We Could Be So Good

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We Could Be So Good Cat Sebastian, 2023 Premise: Nick has worked hard for his newspaper job and his safe, small life. But when the boss's son Andy blows in, sparks fly, and suddenly new, previously unthinkable things may be possible.  I have in the past been somewhat unsatisfied with Cat Sebastian's romances. They aren't bad, just a little light on tension and stakes for my taste. I heard some strong recommendations for this new one, however, so I decided to check it out. I'm happy to share that I'm glad I did.  The 1950s NYC setting already sets this apart from most of the LGBT historical romances I've read. It feels well researched; I could see and feel Nick's rickety fire escape and his family's Italian neighborhood, Andy's fancy inherited penthouse, the bustle of the newsroom, and the chill of the waterfront.  The book makes the most out of switching protagonists, diving deep into their perspectives and emotions. This both helps them feel like d