Murder, Magic, and What We Wore

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore - Kelly        Jones This book was a fun romp. I adored how much attention Annis paid to fabrics and fashion through out all of it, even though she's starting from a very small skill-set as an actual dressmaker.

Unlike many books with *surprise* secret spy family members, Annis does not strain my suspension of disbelief. She starts out the book as a fairly sheltered, normal, naive, fashion-obsessed young woman of her time, if a charming one with a kind heart. The sense of the world spinning on and on outside of Annis' sphere is one that I love. Her growth over the book is lovely to follow, and her unexpectedly useful talents are all things that she regards as extremely normal. (If *you* had her Aunt Cassia, you'd know how to do basic ciphers, of course!) She's resourceful, charming, brave, kind, and EARNEST. I *love* an earnest heroine.

Millie could be the heroine of her very own story, and the best part is that this story totally acknoledges that. I love it. Just because Annis is the viewpoint of this story, doesn't mean that Millie is less of her own heroine. Same with Aunt Cassia, Miss Spencer, and others. On a meta level, the way that Jones pulled in characters from other worlds and novels also plays to this theme -- everyone is the hero of their own story, with their own rich inner life etc. It's even lampshade with Miss Smith, commenting that Annis was an entirely inappropriate choice for a spy as she would always be the center of the story, never able to be on the edges like a spy must.

Anyway, back to Millie. I felt like the book did a good job of handling the class and employment balance of power stuff, as well as building the friendship between Millie and Annis. I look forward to seeing Millie develop into a powerhouse of her very own.

There's a fairly tepid romance through line with Mr. Harrison, which was limp in a way that made it a little odd how much the book kept drawing the reader's attention back to it. The much more engaging romance through line was between Miss Spencer and Aunt Cassia -- I was to see *that* one explored more.

This is totally a YA book, but it's not one that seems to think younger readers need to be talked down to. The POV character is a teen and FEELS like a teen, but the problems she deals with -- her friend/employee's continued sexual harassment by a local big deal, her parents' deaths, being broke, etc -- are all Big Deals. IDK, I enjoyed it.

TL;DR -- fun, fluffy romp. Strong rec as a beach or light read. Will be looking forward to the sequel.

The Covert Captain: Or, A Marriage of Equals

The Covert Captain: Or, A Marriage of Equals - Jeannelle M. Ferreira This book was really good. I tore through it in a Saturday morning and ignored my fiancée when she tried to talk to me because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

This romance novel's view of queerness appears very historically rooted but not focused on homophobia despite one of the major plot points being the fear of and eventual discovery of Fleming's hidden gender. .

I enjoyed the sparse style of the storytelling - the narrative focus is on dialogue and despite various flashbacks, a lot of the book relies on nuance and implication. Show not tell indeed. It is very jumpy, in places, particularly when the POV shifts around Fleming. I was able to follow it, by and large, but I did have to reread a couple places to see where the scene shifted.

The way the relationship grows between Harriet and Fleming is very organic feeling, including the way they handle Fleming's own PTSD and grief over the loss of her men. It reminded me a bit of [b:Lady Knight|596662|Lady Knight|L.-J. Baker||583331]'s romance, although *this* book has a much more happy ending where the characters get to live how they want.

I also particularly liked how Harriet and Sherbourne's relationship was painted - it's a dynamic that rings very real, based on a history you get glimpses of but can feel is there. Same with Sherbourne and Fleming. Also, everyone changes and grows as characters! I love sweet sweet character growth.

The historical period is painted with small everyday details that makes it feel so much more grounded in reality than most of the historical romance novels I've read. But it's also not like someone slapped a romance into their dissertation and called it a day.

I hope the author writes more books in this universe and gives us glimpses of Harry and Nora being happy and married. :)

The Girl in The Tower

The Girl in The Tower - Katherine Arden I tore into this book right after the first, and it delivered.

A+, extremely solid character development of Vasya and her family. LOVE seeing that her siblings are all very good at what they do -- warrior politics monk or mother and princess holding her family's reputation and fortunes together carefully, both Sasha and Olga were extremely competent, fully rounded humans, and you can a really common thread between the siblings. What is presented as making Vasya special and powerful is also present in her siblings here, even if they are different people who made different choices.

(Also, I loved all the parallels between Olga and their mother. Wonderful.)

I LOVED that everyone's choices have CONSEQUENCES. I love the emphasis on choice -- the mother or the daughter? piotr or vasya? vasya and morozko. vasya and kasyan, etc.

Loved the world building here. This Moscow is a completely different setting than Vasya's forest home, and it's just as richly drawn.

SPEAKING OF KASYAN, I loved him. I love how he echos her initial fiance -- laughing, proud, with something angry. I love how he's fascinated with Vasya because of her spirit, but it's still easy to see that he's broken by his own past. That bit about the tricks and the lies and the passion? Wow, lemme tell you, I loved it, but it was also easy to see why that wouldn't work for Vasya, but also see another path, another Vasya it would work for.

I can't get over how much I love the plotline with Morozko sliding between humanity and immortality, how badly Vasya reacts to the bit with the sapphire in Moscow and how ENTIRELY IN CHARACTER for both of them it was. Delightful. Can absolutely not wait for the next book, it's killing me here.

ALSO, the whole bit where Uncle Vasya takes his niece riding through town? It's wonderful.

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden I loved this book so so much.

First, I love how this author fleshes out all her characters. Even Konstantine the deeply obnoxious priest and Anna the evil step mother are extremely understandable and sympathetic. They're more awful because of the wasted potential in them -- especially Anna, whose fear of her own sight is so contrasted to Vasya and her mother.

I'm also a sucker for a folkloric setting, and boy howdy, this one delivered. Solid, a+ there. I love seeing Vasya stepping up, looking after her family and her people and holding the household spirits togeather with grit and grim determination. Her care for *her* people is palpable, and that that care includes the household spirits themselves is also extremely apparent.

Also, perhaps it's just because I spent today tromping through snow outside under an extremely blue and cold sky, but the way winter and the weather is talked about hit so close to home, I knew *exactly* what kind of frost or snow they were talking about every time it changed. Beautiful.

I love the different POVs for this story, particularly Vasya's father's. One of the things this book hits out of the park is familial relationships. Vasya and her brothers, Vasya and her father, Vasya and her sisters, her siblings with each other -- they're all so, so well drawn. The way you can love your sibling and want only the best for them and still not really understand each other and get along.
I also love seeing the loss of Sasha to the church through Piotr's eyes, how he's evaluating his children and trying to find them safe and happy lives that suit their talents.

Even with the multiple POVs, I didn't feel like this story was confusing or poorly paced -- all the povs and snippets came together like a puzzle. In the final stretch of the book you can feel all the pieces snapping into place and you don't like the look of the completed puzzle, but that's still the only place this piece fits. I tore through this novel like a freight train due to this masterful use of tension.

OH BOY, MOROZKO, boy howdy. Talk about building the tension right with *that* one! I love him.

The City of Brass


A Lady's Code of Misconduct

A Lady's Code of Misconduct - Meredith Duran The hemming and hawing toward the end got a bit much, but I greatly enjoyed this book.

A Lady's Code of Misconduct

A Lady's Code of Misconduct - Meredith Duran The hemming and hawing toward the end got a bit much, but I greatly enjoyed this book.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People

The Almost Nearly Perfect People - Michael Booth Listened to the audio book, it was delightfully performed.

Enjoyed the book, but its a really clear unreliable narrator.

Royally Yours

Royally Yours - Everly James I failed out of this about 3/4th of the way through because the blackmail plot ruined my enjoyment of the book.
Cute cute cute romance, love the earnest agriculture girl and the princess.

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want - Jesse Mecham Technically there isn't any info here that isn't on the YNAB website, etc about the YNAB system. But the amount of RL people examples and the always so so friendly and approachable language makes this book amazing.

I read it as someone whose used the YNAB app on and off for years and it was well worth it. It would also be a great book for someone completely new to YNAB or budgeting.

The Shadow Mark (Lords of Davenia Book 2)

The Shadow Mark (Lords of Davenia Book 2) - Mason Thomas Pacing much improved, still good character voices. Would have been nice to have one or two women on screen who weren't evil but such is m/m life. Love that there are different gay experiences for the guys in these books tho. The lowest bar!

Loved the mc, kinda felt like kane was a bit underdeveloped but the book held my attention intensely.

Lord Mouse

Lord Mouse - Thomas Mason Solid if not without its problems. Characters were intriguing, and mouse in particular. Pacing was inconsistent and that chase around the manor went on for agesssss. Overall enjoyable tho.

Lord Mouse

Lord Mouse - Thomas Mason Solid if not without its problems. Characters were intriguing, and mouse in particular. Pacing was inconsistent and that chase around the manor went on for agesssss. Overall enjoyable tho.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal - K.J. Charles short story with connected overarching plot worked much better than i expected from description; very much enjoyed.

Spectred Isle

Spectred Isle - KJ Charles ahhhhhhhhhhhh i loved this.

this managed to hit all the things i love about kj charles writing and none of the things i don't like. can't WAIT to read the rest of this series.

Update: 3/15/18

Re-reading the Feximal books really makes Randolph's position on the government oversight stuff a lot more understandable but ugh, I still think it's not a good solution

The Ultimate Quest: A Geek's Guide to (The Episcopal) Church

The Ultimate Quest: A Geek's Guide to (The Episcopal) Church - Jordan Haynie Ware This is basically the book I wished for when I was considering if I wanted to join the Episcopal Church. As someone not raised in this tradition, it's all very confusing and a bit overwhelming. This books gives a great outline and base to start from when trying to sort all of it out. Notably, it's not just the definitions-- this book includes a crash course on Episcopal theology, history, and thought that highlights what is the commonality that distinguishes it from others.

That said, the geek thing is a lot forced sometimes. As geek myself, I really felt it when the comparisons worked, and they did, a lot of the time-- but it's more than a bit self conscious other times.

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