Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Mairon Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg & The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg
Publication: December 29th, 2020
Park Row
Hardcover. 336 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

 Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard. 

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant for Miss Brickett’s named Michelle White receives a letter warning her that a heinous act is about to occur. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect. 

Almost unwillingly, Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie—style locked-room mystery with an exciting new heroine detective at the helm."
Something about this one just sounds really fun and I'm curious to see how it plays out. I feel like this will be one of those fast-paced reads to settle into and relax with. 


The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn
Publication: December 8th, 2020
Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover. 336 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"In the aftermath of World War II, Goh Junja is a girl just coming into her own. She is the latest successful deep sea diver in a family of strong haenyeo. Confident she is a woman now, Junja urges her mother to allow her to make the Goh family's annual trip to Mt. Halla, where they trade abalone and other sea delicacies for pork. Junja, a sea village girl, has never been to the mountains, where it smells like mushrooms and earth, and it is there she falls in love with a mountain boy Yang Suwol, who rescues her after a particularly harrowing journey. But when Junja returns one day later, it is just in time to see her mother take her last breath, beaten by the waves during a dive she was taking in Junja's place. 

Spiraling in grief, Junja sees her younger siblings sent to live with their estranged father, Suwol is gone, the ghost of her mother haunts their home--from the meticulously tended herb garden that has now begun to sprout weeds, to the field where their bed sheets are beaten. She has only her grandmother and herself. But the world moves on without Junja. 

The political climate is perilous. Still reeling from Japan's forced withdrawal from the peninsula, Korea is forced to accommodate the rapid establishment of US troops, and her grandmother, who lived through the Japanese invasion that led to Korea's occupation understands the signs of danger all too well. When Suwol is arrested for working with and harboring communists, and the perils of post-WWII overtake her homelands, Junja must learn to navigate a tumultuous world unlike anything she's ever known."
This sounds like it has such a unique premise, I'm not really sure what to expect from this one, but I'm looking forward to checking it out sometime!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: My Heartfelt Thanks


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is:  Thanksgiving Freebie

I don't have a list this week, but since this is typically where I'd make my 'thankful' post, I figured I'd include it here. 

There are a lot of things I am thankful for this year and that I could talk about, but I really just want to keep it short and simple and thank all of my fellow bloggers from the bottom of my heart for being there this year to offer the comfort of books, friendship, and company. I want to sincerely thank every one who visits and/or comments on my blog even though I have been horrendous at timely responses and commenting on others' blogs as well these past few months--I prefer to be much more active, but life has been getting in the way lately and I'm just very thankful that people have still taken the time to visit my blog and engage in conversations with me. (And I'm done with school soon at least, so I'm personally really excited to do some blog catch-ups and be more active!)

And while we're at it, can I just throw out a huge thanks to the entire book community overall? (And authors and publishers! Let's not forget the fact that somehow authors are still putting together amazing work right now and keeping us sane and plied with books to read!) I don't need to talk about how crazy this year has been, but I do need to talk about how grounding and welcoming the entire book blogging community has been. Still posting, still hanging in there, still getting excited about worlds and stories and characters that aren't our own. I know a lot of us have needed whatever escape or relaxation from reality that we can get, and I'm glad we've all been doing it together. I'm not normally one to get too sappy or anything, but it has really meant a lot to me this year and I want to make sure every single one of you knows how much I appreciate it.

Live image of the book lovers and book community
holding each other up this year.


Thank you! 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Review: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk
Publication Date: October 13th, 2020
Hardcover. 384 pages

About The Midnight Bargain:

"Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling. 

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan. 

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?"

The Midnight Bargain is a magical story that weaves together a historical-style setting with some innovative and determined women who are ready to make some changes to their patriarchal society. 

The Midnight Bargain follows Beatrice Clayborn, a young woman on the verge of marrying age about to begin the 'bargaining season' in which all of the young ingenues are pursued by eligible bachelors. Beatrice prefers to study magic and has no interest in marrying; she would rather focus on improving her magic to where she can one day assist her father in improving the family's finances in order to provide a better life for her family, especially her sister, Harriet. In this world, however, it is only the men who are able to continue pursuing magic into adulthood, whereas the women are only allowed to learn minor spells and charms in their childhood, before putting the interest aside and eventually donning a magical collar of sorts that completely cuts off their magical abilities. 

Beatrice is a headstrong character who meets another equally headstrong woman, Ysbeta, and together the two decide to work together to help each other strengthen their magical abilities. Neither woman wants to marry, although their goals outside of not wanting to marry differ slightly. I found Ysbeta and Beatrice to be a really interesting pair, as on the one hand they held a lot of similar notions about magic and marriage, but on the other hand they also clashed a decent bit in regards to value and personality, and I really appreciated how much contrast Polk created with their characters, showing that women can want to be independent for their own unique purposes, unlike many books that often show women wanting the exact same freedoms from their assigned roles. 

In regards to the magic system, I thought that Polk introduced something really interesting with her particularly brand of magic. I'm not sure I fully understand how some of it works, but what I did find exceptionally interesting was the usage and influence of the lesser and greater spirits that were such a big part of the magic process. I would love to learn more specifics about how this magic worked, as I felt that they were explored, but I'd love to see even more examples of how everything worked. There are some really neat dynamics at play that made this a compelling system. 

There is some romance in this book that I did find a bit hasty at first, but given how marriage proposals and the like often work in this world (similar to our own historical basis where there is often limited courtship), I found it to be somewhat believable with how fast things would move. I liked Polk's exploration of Beatrice's own navigation into determining how she wanted to live her life and how she would balance (or not balance) love and her passion for magic, which I felt really showcased Beatrice's strong personality and ability to focus on the realities of life--all while holding onto her own dreams, of course.

One of my main problems, however, here were that there were some times especially near the end of the story where I felt as though the themes and messages of feminism and equality were almost hammered into the reader a little too much, but I didn't find this to be too much to where it took away much enjoyment. I don't mind when the messages are clear and easy to understand, but sometimes when the author does such a good job of displaying the message throughout the story they don't need to continue to spell it out for us repeatedly. Still, I sometimes find it hard to feel justified in complaining about hearing a message repeated when it's a valuable one.

I had a lot of fun with this book. I believe it's been classified as a YA fantasy (though do correct me if I"m wrong), but I personally felt as though it could easily be considered adult as well, since the characters felt slightly more mature and it didn't really seem to follow the more typical YA fantasy patterns that I'm used to.  

Overall, I've given The Midnight Bargain 4.25 stars! As mentioned, I really enjoyed this one and would love to spread more from Polk set in this world in the future, but I'm also satisfied with the story I got to be a part of. 

*I received a copy of The Midnight Bargain courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the book.*

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Friday Face-Off: Words Only

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” – Words only 

There were some really great options this week, so I decided to share a few from two books: The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Exhalation by Ted Chiang. Some of these covers add in a few elements outside of the font, but I felt overall these all seemed to rely pretty heavily on the words themselves, and for good reason!

The Road

US Paperback Vintage 2006 | 2006 US Hardcover | 2007 US Picador Paperback

2007 Spanish Edition | 2014 Italian Edition | 2008 German Edition


2019 US Hardcover | 2020 Romanian | 2019 US Kindle

2020 Spanish Edition | 2020 Slovak Edition | 2019 Chinese Edition

My choice(s):
I am just so drawn to this cover, I love the way the title is just sort of out in the middle of space, there's something peaceful yet unbelievable intriguing. 

What cover(s) do you like the most!?

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Review: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
Penguin Putnam
Publication Date: May 8th, 2020
Hardcover. 302 pages

About In the Heart of the Sea:

"In 1819, the 238-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, the unthinkable happened: in the furthest reaches of the South Pacific, the Essex was rammed and sunk by an enraged sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, decided instead to sail their three tiny boats for the distant South American coast. They would eventually travel over 4,500 miles. The next three months tested just how far humans could go in their battle against the sea as, one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear. 

Nathaniel Philbrick brings an incredible story to life, fro the intricacies of Nantucket's whaling economy and the mechanics of sailing a square-rigger to the often mysterious behavior of whales. But it is his portrayal of the crew of the Essex that makes this a heart-rending book. These were not romantic adventurers, but young working men, some teenagers, just trying to earn a living in the only way they knew how. They were a varied lot: the ambitious first mate, Owen Chase, whose impulsive nature failed at a crucial moment, then drew him to a more dangerous course; the cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson, whose long-lost account of the ordeal, written at age seventy-one, provides new insights into the story; and Captain George Pollard, who was forced to take the most horrifying step if any of his men were to survive. 

This is a timeless account of the human spirit under extreme duress, but it is also a story about a community, and about the kind of men and women who lived in a forbidding, remote island like Nantucket—a pioneer story that explores how we became who we are, and our peculiar blend of spiritualism and violence. It is also a tragic tale of survival against all odds. Its richness of detail, its eloquence, and its command of history make In the Heart of the Sea a vital book about America."

In the epilogue of In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick states that "the Essex disaster is not a tale of adventure. It is a tragedy that happens to be one of the greatest true stories ever told," and I really could not agree more with that sentiment. As we all know, I am a sucker for any sort of disaster and survival story, particularly if they take place in the arctic/antarctic regions or out on the sea (or both!), so this is a book that I've had sitting on my shelf for a while waiting for me to read it. This is another one that I don't think I'll be forgetting about anytime soon.
In the Heart of the Sea tells the story of the Essex, a whaleship from Nantucket--what was one the whaling center of the world--that was rammed and eventually sunk in the South Pacific ocean by a sperm whale in 1820. If this sounds at all familiar, it's because the Essex is the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick, in which a whale similarly wrecks a ship. As a result, twenty men were left stranded in three whaleship boats in the middle of the ocean with thousands of miles between them and any known safety. All they had were some sails and navigational tools to find their way. 
Philbrick is a nonfiction author that I absolutely plan to read more from, as I found In the Heart of the Sea nearly impossible to put down. Although the story itself is fascinating on its own, the way that Philbrick brought the nonfiction account together into a cohesive narrative was excellent and truly allowed for me to immerse myself into this account. Not only does he tell of the steadfastness and determination of the men on board, but he also highlights that strengths and flaws in Captain Pollard's leadership, the racism that abounded, the attitudes of the men on board, the arrogance of men who think they can take unnecessary risks for their own gain, the horrible impact of whaling on whale populations at the time, and so many more truly incredible themes. There was a great underlying discussion of wealth and how wealth-related boundaries and distinctions affected all aspects of whaling that was incorporated well, also.
What I really liked about Philbrick's narrative was how he brought together a wide variety of sources that exist on the whaleship Essex tragedy in order to give a well-rounded view and to point out areas where certain sources left out information or altered it in some way. I also appreciated his focus on the fate of the black members of the crew of the Essex and how their experiences differed considerably from their white counterparts. He notes that in many of the eyewitness accounts from survivors they leave out some critical points of the narrative, such as the fact that none of the black crew members survived and that, as mentioned, they often had fairly different experiences aboard a whaleship than white men. Another layer to this is that among the white men there was an additional division between off-islanders and Nantucketers, and Philbrick is firm in pointing out that the Nantucketers seems to fair the best out of all members of the Essex--whether that's from sheer hardiness and luck or a result of treatment and in-group camaraderie is not firmly known, but it certainly provides for some important discussion consideration that I personally thought proved vital to learning about this tragic wreck.
One of the things that most fascinates me about tragedies such as the Essex is how the various types of stress and situations that these men encountered affected their psyche. Because of this interest, I was excited by how much Philbrick explored topics about how the mental state is affected by the stress, starvation, and myriad of other factors that played into this experience. It's extremely apparent that Philbrick not only dove deep into researching the account of the Essex, but also into topics such as the psychology of tragedies and survival in order to develop a well-rounded and detailed exploration of all aspects of this tragedy.

No matter how many survival nonfiction accounts I read, I never seem to be able to comprehend or get over just how resilient humans can be. It always strikes me to see men such as those from the Essex, battle through near-starvation and dehydration and almost dangle on the edge of death for so long when i feel like in other areas of life we are so often reminded of how fragile the human body is. These stories really remind me that it's always worth it to keep fighting no matter how desperate the situation or how easy it seems to just give up instead. I think that's one reason I can't get enough of these stories, that despite situations that feel utterly hopeless, there's always a reason to just keep pushing towards the destination, because you never know what can happen. I confess I"m usually a rather cynical person, but there's something about these stories that always get to me.

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me! If you enjoy nonfiction, survival stories, sea wrecks, or simply a riveting narrative, then you really need to pick up In the Heart of the Sea. I promise you won't regret it.
Also: if you have any great survival/sea-wreck/etc. stories, please do recommend them!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller & The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller
Publication: December 1st, 2020
Hardcover. 384 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | IndieBound

"Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge. 

Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable. 

Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed."
I read Miller's Blackfish City a little earlier this year and although it wasn't a favorite, I was really impressed and intrigued by the ideas Miller played with, which makes me extra interested in this book. 


The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Publication: December 29th, 2020
Sourcebooks Landmark
Hardcover. 288 pages.

"In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy pond, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car—strange for a frigid night. Her husband and daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author. Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away. 

The puzzle of those missing eleven days has persisted. With her trademark exploration into the shadows of history, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such a murky story. 

What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?"
I've read a couple of Marie Benedict's books and I think this is the one that I feel most excited for! I love the "mystery" around Agatha Christie's short disappearance (which, who knows, it might not have been that mysterious at all!) and I'm curious to see what Benedict does with this thread. 

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Blog Tour: The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick + Excerpt!

Author:  Nicola Cornick
Pub. Date: November 10th, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books (Twitter, Instagram)
Pages: 368 
Find it: Harlequin | IndieBound | Amazon | B&N | Google | iBooks | Kobo

In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies… 
1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries… 
Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever."



        Amy Robsart, Cumnor Village 

        They came for me one night in the winter of 1752 when the ice was on the pond and the trees bowed under the weight of the hoar frost. There were nine priests out of Oxford, garbed all in white with tapers in hand. Some looked fearful, others burned with a righteous fervour because they thought they were doing the Lord’s work. All of them looked cold, huddled within their cassocks, the one out ahead gripping the golden crucifix as though it were all that stood between him and the devil himself. 

        The villagers came out to watch for a while, standing around in uneasy groups, their breath like smoke on the night air, then the lure of the warm alehouse called them back and they went eagerly, talking of uneasy ghosts and the folly of the holy men in thinking they could trap my spirit. 

        The hunt was long. I ran through the lost passageways of Cumnor Hall with the priests snapping at my heels and in the end, exhausted and vanquished, my ghost sank into the dark pool. They said their prayers over me and returned to their cloisters and believed the haunting to be at an end. 

        Yet an unquiet ghost is not so easily laid to rest. They had trapped my wandering spirit but I was not at peace. When the truth is concealed the pattern will repeat. The first victim was Amyas Latimer, the poor boy who fell to his death from the tower of the church where my body was buried. Then there was the little serving girl, Amethyst Green, who tumbled from the roof of Oakhangar Hall. Soon there will be another. If no one prevents it, I know there will be a fourth death and a fifth, and on into an endless future, the same pattern, yet different each time, a shifting magic lantern projecting the horror of that day centuries ago. 

        There is only one hope. 

        I sense her presence beside me through the dark. Each time it happens she is there too, in a different guise, like me. She is my nemesis, the arch-enemy. Yet she is the only one who can free me and break this curse. In the end it all depends on her and in freeing my spirit I sense she will also free her own. 


        I met her only a handful of times in my life. She was little but she was fierce, always, fierce enough to survive against the odds, a fighter, clever, ruthless, destined always to be alone. We could never have been friends yet we are locked together in this endless dance through time. 

        I possessed the one thing she wanted and could not have and in my dying I denied it to her forever. For a little while I thought that would be enough to satisfy me. Yet revenge sours and diminishes through the years. All I wish now is to be released from my pain and to ensure this can never happen again. 

        Elizabeth, my enemy, you are the only one who can help me now but to do that you must change, you must see that the truth needs to be told. Open your eyes. Find the light. 


Excerpted from The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick Copyright © Nicola Cornick. Published by Graydon House Books.


USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over thirty historical romances for Harlequin and HQN Books. She has been nominated twice for a RWA RITA Award and twice for the UK RNA Award. She works as a historian and guide in a seventeenth century house. In 2006 she was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Ruskin College, Oxford, where she wrote her dissertation on heroes.

LINKS: Author Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads