Book Review: Spineless


Samantha San Miguel

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 7th June 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

When his asthma lands him at a health resort in the wilds of Gilded Age South Florida, twelve-year-old Algie Emsworth is over the moon. The scientific treasure trove of unexplored swamps may launch his dream career as a naturalist. But even Algie is startled when he happens upon a brand-new species and her brood in the karst springs surrounding the resort. Algie quickly realizes he must keep his discovery a secret: a famous collector of exotic animals is also staying at the hotel, and the new species is threatened by his very presence. An apparent curse has also descended upon the hotel, bringing with it a deadly red tide. But when the pool starts filling with ink and guests start getting mysterious, sucker-shaped wounds, Algie must pluck up his courage to find the truth about the goings-on at the Grand Hotel—and save the new species from destruction.

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Book Review: Siren Queen


Nghi Vo

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 10th May 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

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Book Review: The Half Life of Valery K


Natasha Pulley

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 23rd June 2022
spoilers? yes

Goodreads

In 1963, in a Siberian gulag, former nuclear specialist Valery Kolkhanov has mastered what it takes to survive: the right connections to the guards for access to food and cigarettes, the right pair of warm boots to avoid frostbite, and the right attitude toward the small pleasures of life so he won’t go insane. But on one ordinary day, all that changes: Valery’s university mentor steps in and sweeps Valery from the frozen prison camp to a mysterious unnamed town that houses a set of nuclear reactors and is surrounded by a forest so damaged it looks like the trees have rusted from within.

In City 40, Valery is Dr. Kolkhanov once more, and he’s expected to serve out his prison term studying the effect of radiation on local animals. But as Valery begins his work, he is struck by the questions his research raises: why is there so much radiation in this area? What, exactly, is being hidden from the thousands who live in the town? And if he keeps looking for answers, will he live to serve out his sentence?

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Book Review: To Marry and to Meddle


Martha Waters

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

published: 5th April 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Marriage isn’t always smooth sailing

Lady Emily Turner should really be married by now, but with a dowry of her father’s debts, her only suitor is the odious owner of her father’s favourite gambling house.

Lord Julian Belfry is the second son of a marquess, but has managed to scandalise polite society with his acting career and the fact that he owns a less than salubrious theatre.

Crossing paths at a house party, they discover that a marriage of convenience might benefit them both: Emily can use her society connections to add some respectability to Julian’s theatre, while also managing to escape the dubious world of her father.

With differing ideas on the roles each will play in their marriage, and an on-the-run actress, a murderous kitten, and some meddlesome friends adding to the complications, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience might be leading to some rather inconvenient feelings.

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Book Review: That Green Eyed Girl


Julie Owen Moylan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 14th April 2022
spoilers? nope

Goodreads

1955: In a cramped apartment on the Lower East Side, school teachers Dovie and Gillian live as lodgers, unable to reveal the truth about their relationship. They guard their private lives fiercely – until someone guesses their secret.

1975: Twenty years on, in the same apartment, Ava Winters is desperately trying to conceal her mother’s fragile mental state from the critical eyes of their neighbours. But, one sweltering July morning, Ava’s mother escapes.

Alone after her mother’s departure, Ava takes delivery of a parcel. The box is addressed only to ‘Apartment 3B’, and contains a photograph of a woman with the word ‘LIAR’ scrawled across her face.

Seeking refuge from her own crisis, Ava determines to track the owner of the photograph down. And, in so doing, discovers a shocking chain of kindnesses, lies and betrayals – with one woman at the centre of it all…

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Book Review: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting


Sophie Irwin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

published: 11th May 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

The season is about to begin—and there’s not a minute to lose.

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one—not even a lord—will stand in her way…

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Book Review: The Shadows of Men


Abir Mukherjee

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 11th November 2021
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath?

Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this ‘unmissable’ (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?

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Book Review: Real Easy


Marie Rutkoski

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

published: 18th January 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

A compulsive, tenacious, and unexpectedly hopeful thriller set in a midwestern strip club, told by New York Times bestselling author Marie Rutkoski in the spirit of Gillian Flynn and Tana French

It’s 1999, and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to taking anyone under her wing―after all, between her disapproving boyfriend and his daughter, who may as well be her own child, she has enough to worry about. But when Samantha overrides her better judgment to drive a new dancer home, they are run off the road. The police arrive at the scene of the accident―but find only one body.

Georgia, another dancer, is drawn into the investigation as she tries to assist Holly, a Harvard-educated detective with a complicated story of her own. As the point of view shifts from dancers and detectives to club patrons and children, the women round up a list of suspects, all the while grappling with their understandings of loss and love.

Drawing on her personal experiences as well as interviews with police, Rutkoski immerses us in a subculture that is all too often reduced to cliché. Gripping, deeply feminist, and character-driven, Real Easy spellbinds us and gets to the heart of this timeless question: How do women live out their lives knowing that men can hurt them?

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Book Review: The Heretic


Liam McIlvanney

Rating: 5 out of 5.

published: 20th January 2022
spoilers? no

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Set in 1976, seven years after the murders recounted in Liam McIlvanney’s breakout novel, The Quaker, this new Glasgow noir novel is a standalone mystery featuring serial character, Detective Duncan McCormack.

McCormack has returned to Glasgow after a stint with the Metropolitan Police in London. The reason for his return is left a lurking mystery throughout. He is investigating a series of murders that seem at first to be the result of random bouts of violence among Glasgow’s poor and destitute. McCormack, however, has insight into Glasgow’s underground that many of his colleagues don’t. He has a secret of his own that he guards carefully but that takes him places and introduces him to people that prove essential to his investigations.

McIlvanney’s The Quaker was named the Scottish Crime Fiction Book of the Year and a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. The Guardian called it “a solidly crafted and satisfying detective story.” McIlvanney is known for his well crafted plots, his deep characterization, and his stylish prose. The Heretic is no exception.

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Book Review: An Heiress’s Guide to Deception and Desire


Manda Collins

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 16th November 2021
spoilers? no

Goodreads

England, 1867: As half of the writing duo behind England’s most infamous crime column, Miss Caroline Hardcastle has quite the scandalous reputation. It may have cost her a fiancé, but she would much rather bring attention to crimes against those ignored by society than worry about what the ton thinks of her.

After Caro’s dear friend is kidnapped, however, she has no choice but to work with Lord Valentine Thorn, the same man who broke her heart. Worse, when her actions put her father’s business at risk, a marriage of convenience may be her only solution . . . but can she trust Val to stand by her? Or will their past repeat itself?

Val – the new Viscount Wrackham – is in an untenable position: His father is demanding he find a respectable bride to secure the succession. Yet the only woman he’s ever loved, Miss Caroline Hardcastle, is notorious for behaving improperly. And she’s never forgiven him for his youthful transgressions, missteps made in the name of familial duty, but ones he still regrets to this day.

As they grow closer to unmasking the culprit, Val sees an opportunity to show Caro he’s a changed man. But can he convince her to give their love a second chance – before death does them part?

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