I read some ARCs! And, for the first time, two of the ones I read as audiobooks, I read as audiobooks because that’s the format I received them! I’m so grateful since y’all may remember that I am struggling to read with my eyeballs. So, today the books we’ll be talking about are all available for you to purchase or borrow already. First up, we have Savage City by L. Penelope, which was a very interesting book that has me more curious about book two than anything else. Then we have Boss Witch by Ann Aguirre, which gave me a lot of thoughts about when and how I should have read this book. And finally, we have To Marry and to Meddle by Martha Wells, a historical romance, which I wound up reading as an audiobook I purchased myself. I received review copies of each of these books from Netgalley and the respective publishers, so shout out to them.
Savage City by L. Penelope
Savage City is the first book in a new series from L. Penelope and the world-building is intense. It took me a while to grasp what was going on, but it was easy to ground myself even in that uncertainty because we follow Talia, a woman who essentially wakes up in a whole new world and is mistaken for that world’s missing princess. There are a good many characters, but Chad (whose name may not be spelled that way) was probably my favorite, which leaves me far more excited about book two than I ultimately was about this first installment. Chad is the missing princess’s step-brother and his plotline wound up being the most intriguing for me. I’m hopeful that book one suffered from having to set up quite a bit of world and plot to get us to book two.
Anyway, focusing on the book I actually read, Talia feels an instant connection to Ryan, a Fae drudge (aka a slave for the Nimali people), and their relationship building is interesting, but it felt almost as if we were observing it from afar despite being in their alternating perspectives. The distance is not necessarily something I enjoyed, but am not sure how it will impact other reader’s experience. Both Talia and Ryan have some grief and trauma in their past and I appreciated how they connected, even with that distance between the reader and the characters.
Turning specifically to the audio narration, I thought both narrators did a good job, although if I’m being nitpicky, if it weren’t for the Netgalley app, I would have wanted to listen to each narrator at a different speed. But overall, I thought it was a well done audiobook and I would recommend if you’re interested in intense world-building with a nice romance to accompany your fantasy read!
Boss Witch by Ann Aguirre
So, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to read Boss Witch right after reading Witch Please because it made certain character traits of Danica and Clem read completely different and I’m still struggling with how to really interpret that. On the one hand, excellent characterization because are we not all the Main Character in our own story and therefore inclined to see things from only our perspective? On the other hand, it’s really hard to read book one where Clem seems so driven and focused on… Her idea of right vs. wrong, I suppose, and she comes across as harsh and unsupportive. Then in Boss Witchshe doesn’t really ever seem to reckon fully with that interpretation of her actions and almost doubles down, aside from when she has this two sentence realization that maybe grandma’s thoughts and indoctrination had more of an impact on her than she realized. And so in Boss Witch we see Danica being careless and thoughtless about many of her actions, which makes sense from Clem’s point of view, but is sort of hard to read about because you can’t then see her grow because her book is already over. And obviously, people don’t end a book and go from messy to perfect, but it’s just sort of disconcerting.
Also, maybe the entirety of the above paragraph is not something that is actually that important to you or to the story and I can certainly see why it wouldn’t bother anyone else besides me, so let’s talk about some of the other aspects of Boss Witch. So, as indicated by the set up of this book in Witch Please, a witch hunter has come to town and he’s clearly going to be Clem’s love interest in Boss Witch. And in fact, we pick up a little back in time from where Witch Pleaseends and spend about half of the book covering the period of time we saw glimpses of in Witch Please. I don’t always love books that cover similar ground as the prior book in the series, so that could have been part of my issue here. But I think more than that, it’s the fact that this deception paired with the fact that (at least theoretically) a witch hunter is trying to, you know, HUNT witches and a witch is falling for him, should be a little more angsty than this was? I’m not sure I can really explain how I wish that this book had handled that plot line better, but for me, it just didn’t quite give me the feelings I was hoping and thought that it would.
Turning now to the audio narration because I was lucky enough to receive an advanced listening copy via Netgalley… I liked the narration for this book a lot! I think I would have been tempted to DNF actually if I hadn’t been listening to it, but it was a good time and it made me accomplish a lot of chores and just kept me company on a Saturday. So I would recommend picking up the audio if you’re going to read this book!
To Marry and to Meddle by Martha Waters
I’m currently in a mood where basically all I want to read is books with the marriage of convenience trope and To Marry and to Meddle delivers on the trope in a fun, historical romantic comedy type of way. This book made me laugh out loud multiple times and I had a good time reading it. What keeps me from giving it a full five stars is that I actually wanted more angst. Basically, I’m a contrary reader, what can I say? But Julian and his father are estranged and it’s very clear to Emily and the reader that Julian desperately wants his approval and to be reunited with his family. Which is compelling motivation, but somehow the way that it resolves itself feels almost anti-climatic. I think the book would have been a little more compelling and compulsively readable with just a slightly more well-rounded thread of tension there. That said, this book is very much the one for readers who are seeking a book with fairly low-stakes that is still compelling enough to keep reading and for anyone who wants an actual romantic comedy to make them laugh out loud. I hope this book finds the right readers because I think Waters delivered an exceptionally solid read and I’m very much looking forward to book four! Also, quick note on the audiobook, I enjoyed listening to the book quite a bit. The narrators both worked for me and were close enough to talking at similar speeds, that I didn’t feel like I wanted to speed one up and one down.
Have you read any of these books? Do you want to? Let me know!