Review: K.J. Charles’s ‘The Sugared Game’ (Spoiler free)

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I often say that the highest amount of praise I can offer a book these days is saying I lost sleep reading it in the wee hours of the night. What with having a toddler at home these days, sleep is the most precious of currencies, only outweighed by alone time.

I woke up 2 am randomly and decided to finish this book if that tells you anything. I am currently typing this review at 4:45 am.

Its really good. Like really good.

Ok, so some TW and CW: Death, dismemberment, period typical homophobia, deceit, conflict between family, misogyny, health difficulties, survivor’s guilt, discussion of prior self harming habits, and a great deal of lying on many people’s parts.

So, if you read the previous book, you will know that Kim Secretan, our erstwhile protagonist’s love interest, is the truest meaning of a disaster. At the beginning of the book, we find out that he has scampered off after a lovely time with Will Darling, our protagonist and failed to call.

Clearly, he has issues. But Will, while good naturedly stomping around his bookshop and attempting to take his best friend out for drinks, stumbles back into his world by chance and the whole merry go round starts again.

We’ve got Zodiac back in the picture, a lot of skulking about, smooching in shadows and, from my part, the intensely desperate desire to get Kim into therapy if it exists at this time.

The book is also a fascinating look at how damaging the Great War was to England and how it changed ideas of class and proper behavior. I always love K.J.’s attention to detail and period.

Its very much got the feel of some of the later Feximal books, so fans of that will likely enjoy it. I would say its blood and gore content is roughly equivalent to a modern mystery show, like Elementary.

However, if you love mystery, suspense, figuring out your sexuality on the run and being slightly too attached to your weapons for anyone’s comfort, you will love this book. I can’t wait to read the next one and god I hope someone gives Kim a nice holiday and some books on loving yourself or something cause he is going to make me cry at this rate.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

Temporary Hiatus

Hey friends!

I’m sure you’ve noticed its been a bit quiet here. I’ve been doing a lot of juggling with childcare and the pandemic lately, along with lots of other things and unfortunately, haven’t been able to get much done on ARC’s and reviews.

So I’m announcing a temporary hiatus, hopefully lasting about 2-3 months for the blog. I’m hoping with a little time, I’ll be able to get back on the horse and start giving you quality content again.

As always, thank you for all your support and I can’t wait to be back squeeing over delicious books with you all soon.

All the best,

Shivani of Not Just a Buzzword

Review: Ink in the Blood (Spoilers!)

So this was a long awaited book for me, cause tattoos and magic? Plus a queer friendly world? Sign me up!

However, before we delve in, I have to give you the trigger and content warnings cause holy hand grenade Batman, this book has a lot of them.

Content and Trigger warnings: torture, murder, blackmail, systemic oppression, self mutilation, alcoholism, family abandonment, body possession, children being sold into religious based slavery and supernatural haunting. I sincerely recommend a warm blanket and a good friend on speed dial if any of these things hit your brain in a rough way, cause this book is graphic in its description in places. 

Also, for those coming from Romancelandia, I will warn that this book, in my opinion, does not have a HEA or a HFN. Its one of my biggest gripes about the book and part of why my rating is lower.

Now on to the meat of the book.

The setting is super interesting, based in a world with a religion based on a child who had the power to create magical tattoos that helped guide people and make decisions. However, the child is (spoiler alert) murdered in said legend of the beginning of the faith. She eventually returns, but its complicated, as you can find out in the book.

What is left behind is a huge chest of magical ink and small children are ‘called’ into the service of this faith at a very young age by the presence of a tattoo.

Unfortunately, as we look further into the system and meet our main characters, Celia and Anya, we discover that this system is distinctly crooked and exploitative. There is little to no chance to escape and extensive torture of the children and teens for any possible infraction.

I won’t lie, I almost stopped reading at some of these places.

Frankly, it got a bit much for me. At certain points, it almost felt as if it was trying to keep being as shocking as possible and didn’t seem to serve as much of a narrative purpose. I get proving that this temple and the faith are totally horrible, but after a bit it felt overdone.

But we move on as our main characters escape, through a series of cunning maneuvers. They join up with a local circus troupe and find their found family. This piece was some of my favorite parts of the book. Lots of trying to learn how to trust others, be with people and dealing with trauma and the realness of having to keep a secret when you want to share with people you care about. Tons of fascinating characters as well and amazing found family vibes as well as queer finding yourself vibes.

I could have read a whole book about just the circus troupe.

However, their safe place becomes compromised and our two main characters become embroiled in a conflict that takes over the rest of the book and segways into the second. I won’t spoil this portion for you, as its a fairly significant part of the book.

Though this book has such incredible potential, I found myself disappointed. The gratuitous nature of the pain inflicted on the main characters and side characters really put me off at times. Maybe its because of 2020 or just life in general, but I’m so tired of seeing characters tortured to prove…something? How bad a place is? I don’t know.

Also, the queer and gender affirming stuff I had been sold on the cover? Sadly seemed somewhat perfunctory and only seemed to exist in the beginning part of the book. The friendship between Celia and Anya periodically seems like it might verge into a love story but never manages to make it there. The love story that does play out has major enemies to lovers vibes and is pretty interesting, but I wish we could have had less sidelining of Anya.

Gender wise, there are aura like creations called tenors that are part of how people read each other’s gender. However, most characters appear to be along the cisgender spectrum and minus one character, no one is shown as having a nonbinary or mixed tenor presentations.

Lastly, the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that I found myself upset that what felt like the potential for a HEA or HFN is pulled out from under the reader’s feet at the last possible second to make room for a sequel. I felt cheated. All that pain, all that struggle and such a huge, intense final fight against the main villain with loss and intense feeling only for things to be unresolved at the very last second.

For that reason, though I love parts of this book, I’ve given it 3.5 stars. Such potential but it didn’t deliver how I hoped.

Your mileage might vary, especially if you like intense angst. And as always, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for writing an honest review.

 

Review: Slippery Creatures

Two white men are pictured. One is blonde, thin and seated in a yellow suit on a chair. The other is thin, with dark hair and sideburns and is wearing historical evening wear and standing in front of him holding a book.

Hello happy readers! Its good to see you, even if the world is a dumpster fire these days. But books are good and that’s why we’re here. Cause joy is lovely.

We’re on to KJ Charles new masterpiece of twists and turns, ‘Slippery Creatures’! But first, some content and trigger warnings. They will be in italics below if you wish to skip them.

Trigger warnings: Described graphic violence, torture scenes, discussions of trench warfare, use of improvised weapons, near death experiences, imprisonment, denial of food and water, fear for safety in home environment, use of guns.

Content warnings: Unclear motivations of one main character, some deception around motives around sexual encounters, period specific homophobia and legal consequences thereof.

Can’t say too much more without spoilers, but if you have any need for more specific CW or TW, feel free to ping me on twitter @ShivaniSWriting and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

So, with all that out there, let me tell you how much I loved this. I’ve been having the worst time reading new books. I’m sure many of you have been in the same boat. The only ones I’ve managed to get through so far are Nalini Singh’s Psy Changeling series, Cat Sebastian’s ‘Two Rogues Make a Right’ and this one. But they’re all of such variety that I found myself wondering why. Part of it was just the realization that I trusted the authors to not hit me with more than I could handle.

But part of it was just that I never seem to get bored with their plots.

For example, this book is a great example of some of what K.J. does best, which is work within tropes and still manage to surprise the reader. I continuously think I know exactly what’s going on and find myself surprised by motivations, character choices and the commitment K.J. has to having her characters be fleshed out, real people. Even her minor characters, like Phoebe and Maisie in this book (please, let them get their own book, it would be so good) have lovely bits and pieces of their own world brought in.

I especially loved that Phoebe, while being femme and young, is not placed in some kind of lower position but is seen as having her own value. She’s not a project for someone, nor is she helpless.

While it is slightly stereotypical for Maisie to be of a lower class than Phoebe, I loved that she was a suffragette and highly devoted to her family. She’s also clever and loyal. I would love to see more of Maisie as I am never satisfied with the amount of time women of color get in historical works but hopefully that will be addressed later in the trilogy.

The one caution I will give is that this is a 3 book trilogy and the HFN at the end of the book is distinctly complicated. We have a lot more to learn and unpack with these characters, which is utterly thrilling but may not be what some are looking for in a lighter read.

However, if you want an utterly engrossing book, with twists and turns all over and romance that makes your spine tingle, I cannot advocate for this one enough.

I read it in one day and I think I might need to go back over it to find all the little reveals and tells. I can’t wait for the next one.

And if you’d like to support my work and Not Just a Buzzword, feel free to purchase the book through the link band we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale. Thank you as always for your support!

https://books2read.com/u/4NLQJx

Review: Two Rogues Make a Right (Spoilers!)

Ok, its been a while due to the upheavals of Romancelandia and many other unfun things we will not address in this blog, cause no one wants that. But we’re back here at NJB and we have an amazing book for you. This ARC came in the other day and it promptly jumped the line and demanded to be read and who am I not to listen?

(A person with bad impulse control at the moment, clearly.)

But my failing is your gain, because you get to hear about this book way before it comes out in June and you can preorder it because oh my god, its like a kitten cuddle in book form and you are going to want this.

But first, content warnings and trigger warnings: Discussion of addiction and recovery, long term parental neglect, trauma, abuse of power against a MC by an authority figure mentioned after the fact, scarring, period typical medical conditions, possibility of death, and sexual abuse committed by a relative of one of the MC’s. 

Though the warnings sound bad, Cat is a master of putting tough things on the page without pulling them straight into your subconscious and messing you up. She’s gentle with it and its more of an explanation of what the characters have been through than gritty, gory details. But your mileage may vary.

Will and Martin are two characters we’ve been circling around for the Sedgewick series, hearing bits and pieces about and meeting in spurts. I’ve been waiting for their book since Cat said she was writing it. If you read ‘A Gentleman Never Keeps Score’, you will have seen a bit of both of them and some of the events referenced in this story. Though it could be a standalone, I definitely recommend reading at least that book as there is a lot of reference back and forth between the two.

(Its also fantastic.)

Martin and Will have been friends for a very long time, through a great deal of struggles. Finally though, they are figuring out through their thickheaded, horribly communicating ways that they really actually love each other as more than just friends.

The problem is, they keep being maudlin, self sacrificing, not communicating and even have one great trope of a badly worded letter to confuse everything before the HEA. Its nearly Austen-ian levels of misunderstandings and I loved every minute of it.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but the pining is distinctly present, as is the lovely trope of the grumpy one loves the sunshine one. I never expected to like Martin much but I really warmed to him in this book. He makes so much sense in the context of Will and you really start to understand his decisions and his manner so much better through this book.

This book also has a particularly delicate and beautiful dedication to discussing the importance of choice, both in bed and out. Will and Martin navigate how to express consent without hitting any of each other’s personal difficulties and its honestly beautiful and feels so natural. If you loved Courtney Milan’s ‘A Governess Affair’, and its dedication to active, informed consent, you will find this to be a new favorite to put alongside that one.

So in conclusion, its adorable, gorgeous, bumbling, slightly frustrating in the best way sort of romance between two people who’ve known each other forever. If you need a small slice of comfort in your life, I intensely recommend this book. I will promptly be rereading it, because frankly, the world is short on comfort right now and I need fluff.

Until next time,

NJB

p.s. If you want to preorder the book, (sadly not out til June), follow the link below and NJB gets a small percentage of the sale. Thank you for your support!

https://books2read.com/u/b550M6

*I received an arc in exchange for an honest review and I don’t think they were prepared for the level of squeeing I planned.

NJB Time Travel Edition: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan (Spoilers!)

A light skinned woman in a large red dress stands with her back to the viewer and her face in profile. She has brown hair and a spray of pink flowers in her hair.

So its been a wild week in Romancelandia, but my patrons choose this amazing book for our next Time Travel review, so let’s jump into the magic that is Courtney Milan’s first published book in the Brothers Sinister series!

Trigger warnings and content warnings: family estrangement, reference to rape of secondary character, misogyny directed towards main character by secondary character, reference to memories of being attacked by a mob of people, period typical sexism and classism. 

Wilhemina Pursling (not her real name) looks to the outside world like a quiet, spinster in waiting, who’s hoping against hope for an offer from some man so she can live a life of relative comfort and obscurity. However, she has a complex and dangerous secret and she’s not interested in catching anyone’s eye in case its found out.

Enter Robert Blaisdell, the 9th Duke of Clermont (but you can call him Robert). They meet hilariously in a library behind a set of curtains and a davenport when they are both hiding for different reasons and he can’t quite seem to take his eyes off Minnie.

But Minnie’s past is catching up with her and she has no time for the Duke of Clermont or his conversation. She needs safety and security, not men who tell her to look them in the eye. Even if she’s very much into the outwardly confident and attractive Duke of Clermont.

I won’t go into more detail about how things progress, cause its such a stunning book and the love story is so real and believable. I love how Minnie and Robert handle their insecurities, difficulties and pasts with so much grace and reality. There’s no shoving down or repressing to make it work. Robert and Minnie’s difficulties are managed and seen. Courtney does a great job writing PTSD and anxiety representation. Minnie and Robert care for each other along with their difficulties, not in spite of them.

One of the things I also love about this book is the banter, the wit and the push and pull between the two main characters. It never feels like someone is losing, but rather that they are playing a game together and relishing the feeling of having someone match them.

Lastly, Minnie has a facial scar that doesn’t get washed away, diminished or transformed. Its just part of her and Robert accepts it as part of her. There’s no need to try to change it or hide it. I appreciated this, because it seems like so many romances try to make things like this magically disappear. It seemed like another push back on pretty privilege and I’ve been looking to find more works like that in romance.

So if you are looking for a book about two people who’ve given up on love and been knocked around by the world finding each other and making it work, I can’t recommend The Duchess War enough. Its a frequent reread for me and I hope it’ll end up on your shelf as one too.

If you do end up picking up the book, follow the link below and NJB receives a small percentage of the cost. Thank you so much for helping keep the site running.

https://books2read.com/u/meg0pZ

Until next time,

NJB

 

 

NJB Time Travel Edition Review: Wanted, A Gentleman by K.J. Charles (Spoilers!)

A black man in a cravat and blue fitted coat poses with a cane on a country road. His face appears serious and he looks directly at the viewer.

Its time for a spin in our lovely NJB time travel machine! Today, we’re going back to visit a gorgeous book. ‘Wanted, a Gentleman’ is one of the first K.J. Charles books I ever read and it definitely filled my soul with love for it, because of its commitment to diverse characters, A+ character development and its tendency to make me write all the quotes down, cause they are just so damn good.

But first, content/trigger warnings: racism, discussion of slavery, internalized homophobia, mentions of physical violence, discussion of marital rape, extortion, planned physical violence towards a MC with consent of all parties.

Some historical books try to run away from the realities of slavery and emancipation while doing romance. But K.J. Charles always looks straight at the difficult moments, without flinching and without marinating in them to an extent that feels overdone. Martin St. Vincent is a freed black gay man, living in London, doing a favor for the family who previously owned him. Theodore Swann is a white gay man who makes his living by publishing novels (which he claims are bad, but aren’t really that bad) and by running a small newspaper where individuals can advertise for romantic connections.

The only child of the family has been carrying on a love affair with someone via letters and using Theodore’s newspaper and thus we have our meet cute.

Theodore is a charming, desperately frustrating, scamp of a human, trying to get out from under the yoke of a particularly awful debt. Martin is a decent, caring man who wants to do this favor for the family that formerly owned him because it puts them on more of an equal playing field and because of some complex internal feelings about debt he was towards them, as well as caring for the young child he once knew.

Through a series of hilarious and realistic methods, they end up in a coach together, hurtling towards the Scottish border in an attempt to stop a hasty wedding. On the way, Theodore learns a great deal about being a black man in England (the stares, the suspicion, the moments when people assume a thousand things about you) while Martin learns a great deal about inconvenient lust. They cascade together eventually, with a great deal of snark and awkward moments.

Its just so god damn believable. Some of their interactions are so real and hit right in the heart. Moments when Martin corrects something so simple about what Theodore is assuming and Theodore takes it to heart. Moments when they realize both how little they know each other and yet how much they want to. It hits me, right in the chest, every time with this book.

Because the book doesn’t assume that everything is hunky dory since Martin is free, nor does it focus on the micro aggressions of strangers around him. Instead, it focuses on the real and complex moments between him and someone he’s coming to care for, who is trying to do and say the right thing and inevitably messes it up. And as someone with a marginalized identity who loves others with different intersections, this is exactly how it goes. You never know how bad your blindspots are til you slam right into them. The most important thing you learn is how to apologize and own it right.

And Theodore learns and does it well. Its part of why they work together, along with a thousand other things.

I won’t spoil the twists, turns and loveliness of the later part of the book for you. I could talk about this book for far too long, but just know that if you need:

-hope on a bad day

-two people trying to figure out how to open their hearts to each other

-hijinx

-great dialogue

Then you need look no further than ‘Wanted, a Gentleman’. I give it five stars and it lives in my frequent reread shelf, which is the highest honor I can give anything.

If you feel like picking up this book, follow the link below and NJB will receive a small amount of the cost. Thank you so much for helping support the site!

https://books2read.com/u/4j2KwX

Until our next time travel edition,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

Review: The Good Luck Girls (Spoilers!)

A black woman with natural hair stands in profile to the viewer. The skin on her neck and creeping up to her cheek has a difference in color from the rest of her skin. She is wearing a leather jacket, a bandana and a bandolier. Presumably pants as well.

This book’s a bit out of the ordinary for me, being more fantasy and action than pure romance, but its so fantastic I definitely had to review it. A note that this one’s content and trigger warnings are a little harder and more intense than my usual fare.

Content and trigger warnings: Attempted rape described on the page, telepathic intrusion, physical assault, murder, auctioning off of people’s first sexual experience, trauma, near death experiences, death of secondary character, description of traumatic event involving a gun, MC and SC’s dealing with traumatic experiences. The overall feel and intensity of violence is that of a Western, but with more described violence against women. The main character has distinct flashback experiences and disassociative like episodes due to trauma. 

Ok, so this book is not your average bear, either for this review site or in general. But oh my god, its such a beautiful breath of fresh air, both in fantasy, world building and in amazing survivor works. The core crew of this book is survivors of assault in one way or another and watching them band together and fight their way to freedom was cathartic and gorgeous.

The rough plot is this: in this particular universe, the equivalent of the ‘Wild West’ was settled by two groups of people, fairbloods and dustbloods. Dustbloods have in some way traded away their shadow in the past and have a legacy of being defined in this way. In this universe, sometimes girls who are part of families who are deeply poor are sold to brothels and become known as Good Luck Girls. They are kept by these houses until around 16 and then become sex workers, with their first sexual experience being auctioned off to local wealthy individuals in town.

Good Luck Girls are tattooed with a magical tattoo that blooms as they move towards puberty, which they are unable to cover without immense pain over time. When the tattoo reaches maturation, that’s when their first night is auctioned off.

I will not lie, the first quarter of this book is pretty massively trigger filled for survivors of sexual assault. It gets better, but its part of why I want to definitely stress the warning. 

Aster and her sister Clementine were sold to the Good Luck House several years ago. Aster’s already moved to working as a ‘Sunset Girl’, the term used for a person whose services are being sold by the house. Clementine is just about to go through her first night, after being auctioned off to a local big shot. A series of events which I won’t spoil for you (but can provide via DM if you are concerned about triggers) has them and several other Good Luck Girls on the run from the house, chasing the possibility of freedom.

Along the way, they meet up with the lovely and enterprising Zee, who works as a guide through the area known as the Scar and helps them find their way to the best possibility they have for freedom. There’s bank robberies, discussions about vengeance, learning about each other along the way and tons of revelations about life, each other and trust.

Mostly what I love about the book though is the camaraderie between the whole crew, how they stick together and the real and intense look at how survivors can band together to help each other out. Its inspiring, lovely and real. There’s a lot in here about healing as well and learning how to deal with the parts of trauma that stick with you.

So if you’re looking for a book that makes you want to cheer as people try to have healthy relationships in the wake of trauma and learn how to cope, as well as be one heck of a thrilling ride straight to the end, I’d highly recommend this book.

I give it 4 stars, not because of problems with the writing but because some of the setting bits could have used some more fleshing out and there were times the fantasy bits felt thin in places. I still don’t entirely understand what dustblood means and it felt like something that disappeared as the book went on. Also, though there is some discussion of how one secondary character is from an indigenous culture, I felt the backgrounds of some of the other characters were a bit more sketched than laid out. More time in the world might help and I hope we get to see more in this setting.

If you’d like to pick the book up, follow this link and NJB will receive a small amount from the purchase! Thank you so much for your help in keeping the site up and running.

https://books2read.com/u/bzopaz

Until next time,

NJB

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and it was so utterly magical. Books are amazing y’all.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Candle and the Flame (Spoilers!)

A brown skinned woman with long blakc hair stands with blue fire in her hands, wearing a red head chuni (head covering that also wraps around the body). She is staring at the viewer. Her eyes are gold colored.

Its a lovely day on NJB, because I not only get to squee about an amazing diverse book, but its also one that hits me close to home and brings with it something I’ve been looking for since I started reading books as a child.

Not just satisfaction, but also a deep sense of being known, of not being alien to myself and others and thousands of tiny details that make me feel utterly transported and yet comfortable.

I’m talking about ‘The Candle and the Flame’, this incandescent debut book by Nafiza Azad.

I won’t lie, I literally hoarded this book for a rainy day because I could tell it was going to be so good. I savored it and stretched it out and refused to be interrupted while reading it. I want to buy a paperback copy of it just so I can put it in my spice cabinet at home and smell all the things that remind me of home and love and comfort while I read it.

I literally don’t know how to tell you all the ways I felt about this book, but I’m going to try.
First off though, content and trigger warnings. This is a little heavier than some of what I usually review. Its a YA novel, focusing on the city of Noor, which has a fair amount of complex political interactions happening, as well as a history of bloodshed. Controlling abusive relationships, in the past and present, along with child neglect, family estrangment, a massive loss of life prior to the beginning of the book, blood spatter and death. I wouldn’t describe it as gory however, but I could see the family estrangment and abusive relationships being a trigger for some. YMMV.

So this book. This book. This fabulous book. Its a mystery and a romance with some action and it fits so perfectly together. Its a soft, careful romance, fit for 90’s Bollywood with passionate kissing and hugging and not much else on the physicality spectrum. But damn, you don’t feel like you’re missing out. The love between the two main characters is so soft, careful and working on explicit consent. I love it so and I wish I’d had it as a teenager so I could have learned about healthy relationships and what they look like.

The other relationships in this story are also on a range, from healthy to unhealthy and provide a vast variety of looks, power differentials and ways of interacting. There’s a reason I’m going to recommend this to my young cousins. .

But here’s the thing I’m going to gush about until the cows come home. The details…the tiny, culturally specific details that made me feel as though I’d come home and my grandmother was waiting for me with a cup of chai and homemade mutthi. There’s no sense of this being a spectacle for the dominant culture or of requiring explanation.

Everything is presented as what it is and the glossary is in the back if you need it. But for me, it was the first time ever I’d cracked open a work of fiction and felt as though I could  be transported to a place that felt simultaneously new and old. It didn’t hurt that the Maharani in this book has the same name as my mother, an experience I’ve never had until this book. To see names I know and cherish, foods I grew up with, experiences and moments I’d lived that previously had been absent from fiction I read….I don’t know how to describe this to you.

There are no words for the depth of feeling it created in me. Suffice to say, books like this are why I started Not Just a Buzzword. Because I knew that books like this were possible and real. I wanted to know them, love them, find them and experience them. I wanted to feel them in the depths of my soul and in every sense of my body. The Candle and the Flame delivers this, along with a story that twists and turns and keeps the reader engaged.

I slowly devoured this book like the bikaner bhujia that used to come in suitcases from India and was rationed out, knowing there was no way to get more once it was gone. I highlighted words in Hindi and Urdu, just because it made me feel so much to see them in print, not as translations, but just existing. There was no apologizing, no explanation but just words in their context. There was an assumption of being understood and it filled my soul with peace.

I can’t describe this book to you. I can’t recommend it enough. Read it, cherish it. You may not feel how I did when you do, because for me, it was indescribable. But its an incredibly worthy addition to YA fiction and it embodies a richness of setting and a centering of diverse narrative that I want to see in every new work I read.

Nafiza is a true gem, in creating a world that felt like home but also was new and open. Her Djinn are fantastic and complex, with lots of possibility for future books. Her characters have complex relationships, internally and externally and grow and change as the story progresses. One of the secondary characters I liked the least became the one I admired the most and it felt utterly natural. The politics are fascinating and the characterizations are so real.

Giving it 5 stars feels somehow like a pittance, because I can’t even tell you what this book meant to me. So you’ll just have to read it and know that it meant the world to me. Its going on a shelf with G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, and I hope to fill that shelf with many more books like it.

If you’d like to pick the book up, follow this link and NJB will receive a small amount from the purchase! Thank you so much for your help in keeping the site up and running.

https://books2read.com/u/bP91JA

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I don’t think they were honestly expecting a love letter in return, but hey that’s not my problem.

 

 

 

 

Review: Iron and Velvet (Spoilers!)

A city block runs across the bottom of the book and also perpendicularly up the opening side. It appears to be Big Ben or a large clock tower similar to Big Ben.

Hello NJB fans! We’re thrilled to get back in the saddle with you for this lovely piece, ‘Iron and Velvet’ by Alexis Hall. Its fun, its pulpy, its queer, what’s not to love?

But first, content and trigger warnings. There’s a pretty decent amount of gore and fighting in this book, as well as a bit of body horror. I would rank it somewhere around an episode of Supernatural, with vampire stakings and really gross bug monster kind of things. There’s an off screen death of a secondary character who we never meet prior to the book opening and the character does deal with some grief on that part. There’s conflict as well between the main character and her mother. There’s also a controlling, jerk ex boyfriend who definitely doesn’t understand boundaries at all.

I suspect its a rather hilarious satire of Edward from Twilight, but it has a few squick moments where he doesn’t respect the main character’s agency. Nothing worse than an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer most days, but if you’re looking for something fluffy, you might want to page past or pick something different to read for the day. Lastly, the main character does have some difficulties with abusing alcohol for part of the book.  If you want more details, feel free as always to DM me on twitter @ShivaniSWriting. 

Ok, now on to the squeee! This book was just an utter delight to read, start to finish.

Its like if you took Harry Dresden from his early books, transformed him into a lesbian woman and then sent her on a series of mysteries that she bounded through with all the disaster in her soul. There’s beautiful, dangerous women everywhere, vampires, faeries, poor choices galore. There’s pacts made without enough forethought, ex girlfriends who are also ludicrously powerful witches, coitus interruptus by strange, horrible beasts from the deep with lamprey mouths (Don’t worry, its just an attack and nothing sexual involving the monster happens.)

Its funny, its snarky, I genuinely was intrigued by the mystery that the main character is trying to solve and I had such a soft spot for her and her disaster decision making skills by the end. Also, the romance in the book, while odd at moments, is charming and utterly believable.

The depiction of grief that’s done is also believable and I found myself pretty invested in the character early on. There’s also discussion of the fact that the character hasn’t always identified as a lesbian and I deeply enjoyed that representation.

Things that weren’t perfect: I couldn’t tell if the feel of the masculine gaze occasionally intruding was a manifestation of the sort of noir feel of the books or something from the author. It didn’t put me off but it occasionally drew me out of the zone. However, it doesn’t feel as though the sex scenes are gratuitous or based on stereotypes, so it was more of a niggling thing than anything else.

I also almost wanted to break this book up into two or have a little more time with some of the scenes. But that might just be me wanting more.

All in all, I loved it and I want to read the next one as soon as I can get my hands on it. 5 stars and I’m looking forward to rereading it again soon, cause its just the perfect sort of thing for around Halloween.

TL;DR If you’re looking for something that feels a lot like early Buffy without having to deal with the ramifications of supporting its previous creator, I suspect you’d like this. Plus, no sex shaming!

If you feel like picking up this book, follow the link below and NJB will get a small percent of the cost. Thank you so much for helping support the site!

https://books2read.com/u/4DyAlA

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword