ARC Reviews: The Empress, Bad Vibes Only, and A Curse of Queens

Although the title of this post indicates that there are three reviews here, I am actually including a bonus super short DNF review for Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle, which unfortunately just didn’t work for me. But otherwise, we have The Empress by Gigi Griffis, Bad Vibes Only by Nora McInerny, and A Curse of Queens by Amanda Bouchet. Thanks so much to Netgalley for the e-ARCs, though all completed books were finished via audiobooks I acquired either myself or through the library. All of these books are already out so you can get your hands on them immediately! Without further ado, let’s get to the reviews!

ARC Reviews with Covers of The Empress, Bad Vibes Only, and A Curse of Queens

The Empress by Gigi Griffis

Cover of The Empress by Gigi Griffis

There was a lot to enjoy about this book. Particularly the sister relationship, if I’m being honest. And the fact that this was based on real historical people, which had me super intrigued. I really liked Lizbet, but I wish I had been able to understand Franz a little more. 

If I’m being honest, I know nothing of the actual history happening in this area of the world and I’m still confused about the timeline. At first I thought this was going to be the Archduke whose assassination resulted in WWI. And I think that’s actually my biggest complaint with this book. I love a good historical romance, but with the way that this book is written and the way it includes mentions of things like assassination attempts and Lizbet’s sister has her own perspective, I think this book should have been written to encompass more of the world and to expand beyond just the romance. Ultimately, I think it’s because of that insular focus that it wound up feeling a little dissatisfying because it wasn’t quite romantic enough to give me a romance novel, nor expansive enough to give me a satisfying historical fiction book. That said, it was intriguing and kept me reading. I enjoyed it for the most part and I have no regrets about choosing to read it!

Bad Vibes Only by Nora McInerny

Cover of Bad Vibes Only (And Other Things I Bring to the Table)

As with all essay collections, there were some I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part, I really loved this entire collection. The beginning sort of starts out with McInerny laying out the project and talking about how positive vibes only can really be quite toxic and so she’s taking the opposite approach in this collection. Then, with deft humor, McInerny proceeds to be honestly quite vulnerable as she walks us through various portions of her life. At one point, she talks about the time she accidentally left her own child in the car for an hour and the immense guilt that she carries over that. She’s very conscious of what could have happened. Throughout the book McInerny trades back and forth over telling genuinely hilarious stories and telling stories of heartache and loss. If I were to compare it to an album, I would say it’s similar to Red by Taylor Swift in that I personally think the pieces came together solidly, but I could see other people saying it lacks the book equivalent of sonic cohesion. And now that I’ve given you a Taylor Swift reference, I’ll simply leave you with this: I highly recommend this collection if you’re willing to go on a ride with a woman who has lost a lot in her life and also found joy. McInerny is a home body and yet has the ability to write about her experiences in a way that feels very relatable. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it like I did.

A Curse of Queens
by Amanda Bouchet

Cover of A Curse of Queens by Amanda Bouchet

I really think Bouchet shines when she is delivering a stand alone romance because the plotting and pacing in this book just worked so, so well. I am really hoping that the next books in the series will similarly be stand alone sequels because I am anxious to follow two other storylines within this world and don’t want to be still in the same perspectives as we are here. 

Jocasta and Flynn have great chemistry and I really enjoyed the way we got to see Flynn slowly come out of his shell to be with Jocasta. Flynn has a lot of emotional wounds because he lost his entire family as a boy, though his dad was the last to go. That meant that Flynn got to see his father being absolutely devastated and so he doesn’t ever want to go through that himself. But Jocasta and Flynn are both desperately in love with one another, even if they’ve tried not to be. So watching their dance around one another until they finally gave in was really great. Meanwhile, the overarching plot moved pretty quickly and was an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this one if you made it through the original trilogy!

Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle

Cover of Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle

And here we have our bonus review for the day because this is a very crushing DNF review. I am sure that if I had been able to push through this book, I eventually would have come to enjoy it. But… I couldn’t do it. So instead, I’m here to tell you that you’re going to need to be prepared to go on a ride with a very, very unlikeable character and a character that is essentially Elf. And as much as I’m here for unlikeable characters, Bettie was just not one of the ones I’m able to be right there with for her journey. It was unpleasant being in her mind because she feels so entitled. Think Piper from It Happened One Summer dialed up to an 11 and with malice and the magic to make it happen. I just couldn’t get there. But I hope y’all enjoy it if you pick it up!!

Final Thoughts

Have you read any of these books? As you can tell, I had sort of mixed reactions to these, but largely positive experiences! Let me know your thoughts below.

xx

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