Review: November Vol. II

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth, Kurt Ankeny
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: May 26th, 2020
Received: Own

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The tale continues in November Vol. II, as three women continue to deal with all the darkness that has come into their lives. Written by Matt Fraction, with artwork by Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth, and Kurt Ankeny, this is not a graphic novel to miss out on.

November is a fragmented noir tale, one that follows three very different women, and the violence and danger that has come into their worlds. There’s the addict with a questionable job, the good Samaritan, whose very life is now in danger for her actions, and the tired 911 dispatcher. While it may seem like they have nothing in common, events are looking to prove that assumption wrong.

I can safely say that if you enjoyed the events of the first volume, you will enjoy November Vol. II. It’s every bit as dark and enthralling as the first, carefully continuing a balance between questions and answers.

It’s worth noting that, surprisingly, the narrative doesn’t get moved along as much as one might expect. That is likely due to the fact that there are three main characters, each with their own story to tell. That being said, I do feel like I have a better understanding of each one of them, after having read this.

As such, I’m tempted to say that any potential fans should wait until they can get their hands on all three volumes, and binge them all in one go. It’s something that I wish I had done – and I actively enjoyed the series.

On that note, I adored the tones, themes, and art style found within November Vol. II. It’s a captivating tale, thanks heavily to the time period and those strong noir vibes. Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth, and Kurt Ankeny’s artwork truly does enhance the entire story, all while taking risks in art style and form.

In a way, I believe I enjoyed November Vol. II more, or at least I was able to find myself more in tune with the entire story. It makes me wonder what will happen in the third (and final) volume, and how I’ll react to it all.

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Review: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Author: Jennifer Saint
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Released: May 4, 2021
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Assault, abuse

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Yes! It’s another Greek Mythology retelling! I’ve been craving one ever since I read Circe, so you can imagine how excited I was about the news. Ariadne, written by Jennifer Saint, takes a classic story from Greek Mythology and flips the focus all around.

Instead of following one of the many heroes instead, we get to read about Ariadne, the princess of Crete. She has other titles too, but I don’t want to spoil them for you (assuming you don’t remember them, that is).

Ariadne is one of the daughters of King Minos. She’s one of the few who see the Minotaur as a person – her brother. Yet, she’s put in a decision to decide between her family and her love. She can help the prisoners (and future sacrifices), or she can stay a loyal daughter. Which will she choose?

“Asterion. A distant light in an infinity of darkness. A raging fire if you came too close. A guide that would lead my family on the path to immortality. A divine vengeance upon us all.”


Fans of Circe are going to adore Ariadne. At least, I know that I did. This novel did a fantastic job of giving the princess of Crete so much agency, and I loved every single minute of it. Frankly, I feel like we could use more like this.

I was pleasantly surprised by how far the story went. I thought this would be a tale of the Minotaur from Ariadne’s perspective – but it goes so much farther. It actually covers her whole life, which means we get to see several other stories come to pass as well.

“It did not feel momentous, yet when I tore my eyes away from his, I found that nothing looked quite the same, as though the world had fractured and sheared away from itself to reshape in almost – but not quite – the same formation. As though I had looked at a waterfall and realized with a faint jolt that the water flowing over the rock was ever-changing, that it would never be the same water again.”

There was a lot to love about Ariadne. Her character, which felt more real and human than any of her previous appearances, her loving nature, everything. I adore her perspective and insight on what her father had done, as well as the way she felt about her mother and brother. It all made the story come to life.

I will never get enough of these retellings and am very much hoping that we’ll be seeing another one soon. Perhaps from Jennifer Saint? Only time will tell.

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Review: Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters by Aimee Ogden

Author: Aimee Ogden
Publisher: Tor.com
Release: February 23rd, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Disease, quarantine, stillbirth, miscarriage

I received a copy of Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Little Mermaid retold in Space Opera form? Count me in! Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters, written by Aimee Ogden is absolutely the most creative retelling I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of them.

Atuale was born in the sea, and for the longest time, the sea was where she belonged. However, sometimes one has to forge their own path in life, in order to achieve true happiness. The opportunity for change was granted to Atuale, thanks to her connection to the World Witch.

The World Witch gave Atuale the mods needed for her to live on land. For her to make a place for herself with the people that lived near the sky, and for her to fall in love with one of them. However, the peace she found has been put at risk, and she’ll do whatever it takes to save it. To save them.

“Guilt flushes her chest, only to be scrubbed quickly away by determination and relief.”

If you going into Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters expecting a simple retelling of the Little Mermaid, you’re going to be in for a world of surprise. Pun intended. This is a rich and complex tale, one that isn’t afraid to take risks and create something powerful and beautiful as a result.

Though I may be biased here, being a massive fan of both space opera, and the original tale of the Little Mermaid. Yet it’s also more than both of those two elements combined, and should be considered a novella that stands on its own.

Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters touches upon many evocative points, from societal expectations to love and adventure, and everything else that lies between. Atuale’s entire being is so focused on love and staying true to herself. Even when she doesn’t know what that means, or what it will involve.

I feel like that is a feeling many of us can connect to, on at least some level. Granted, Atuale’s story takes it much farther than that. She used mods (in place of magic) to grant her the ability to leave the water. Then, she took to the stars, all in hopes of saving those she cared about.

Then there’s the World Witch, a character who in truth could justify a story all on their own. I won’t say too much about this character, because I don’t want to spoil any revelations. But I will say that I love the merging of witch/technology here, it’s clever and fascinating, all in one.

I really was blown away by Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters. It was a delight to read, and brought many interesting concerns to the surface. In a way, it touched upon a little bit of everything, and I really adored that about this novella.

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Review: An Unnatural Life by Erin K. Wagner

Author: Erin K. Wagner
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: September 15th, 2020
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Assault, abuse of power

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I received a copy of An Unnatural Life in exchange for a fair and honest review.

An Unnatural Life is the latest novella from science fiction writer Erin K. Wagner. This is one of those novellas that’s going to make you think. It’s goal is to make you uncomfortable, and to assess your biases, but in ways that you might not expect.

812-3 is a cybernetic organism accused and found guilty of murder. They’ve been spending their time in a prison on Europa. That is, until Aiya got involved. She was sent there in an attempt to help rehabilitate cybernetics like 812-3, but she ended up diving in deeper than expected.

You see, 812-3 is claiming they didn’t commit the crime, and they have a very good reason for wanting the help from a lawyer like Aiya. The real question is, is humanity willing to give cybernetics more rights?

“Either they’re machines or we’re monsters.”

“Well, the latter’s a given.”

Warnings: An Unnatural Life is designed to make people think and feel uncomfortable, so the use of tense subjects shouldn’t be a surprise. There are portrayals of assault and abuse of power within these pages. It’s an inescapable element of the plot.

Holy cow. I was not prepared for the way An Unnatural Life would make me feel. This is a brilliantly written novella, one that hits right in the heart. It also makes you think, and I adore that.

I got sucked into this novella when I saw it described as Murderbot meets To Kill a Mockingbird. I adore both comparisons, so it only felt natural for me to try this piece. I cannot tell you how accurate those comparisons are.

Wager took all of the struggles and injustices portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird, and put them into a different context here. That much is pretty obvious, even from the description. It should also be clear that this isn’t exactly a happy story. But it does make the point.

It makes that point with so much power and emphasis. It left me feeling a little bit shaken, by the time I was done. It’s impossible not to feel invested in 812-3’s story, or in Aiya’s fight for a fair trial for their sake. It’s all wonderfully done.

“We cannot – we will not – abide this sort of vigilante justice which has no regard for due process. I understand, I am human, I understand the urge to seek out your own justice when looking into the eyes of one of them. But we must rise above our first instincts and prove ourselves human even when facing the inhuman.”

If anything, my only complaint would be that the reactions of the humans felt too real. Too pain. It’s easy to hope that people wouldn’t react in such a way, but doing so would be an injustice.

Long story short, I adored An Unnatural Life, and cannot wait to see more from Erin K. Wagner.

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Review: Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid #2
Publisher: DAW
Released: March 5th, 2013
Received: Own

Midnight Blue-Light Special is the second novel in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, and man do I wish I had found/read this series sooner! It’s such a delight, a fun romp through the world of mythical creatures and beings.

Verity Price is a cryptozoologist, which means she studies and protects the monsters we like to imagine aren’t real. She’s also a dancer, and one of the most confident people around. She moved to New York to try and find a balance between work and dancing, and instead she found something else entirely.

Of course, she’s not going to get much time to relax, or think about her decisions. For the Covenant of St. George is coming to town. The Covenant being the big, bad, and xenophobic version of Verity’s family.

“I’m a cryptozoologist. It’s my job to protect the monsters of the world. But when those monsters become too dangerous to be allowed to roam free, I’m also a hunter. I don’t enjoy that side of my work. That doesn’t mean I get to stop doing it.”

Once again, Seanan McGuire has managed to entertain and delight me with her writing. Midnight Blue-Light Special is such an entertaining read, picking up almost exactly where the last novel left off.

There are a lot of positive things I could say about Midnight Blue-Light Special, and the InCryptid series as a whole. Verity is a fascinating leading lady, and her perspective is full of entertaining thoughts.

The world is amazing, or more accurately, the cryptids are. I’m a girl that knows a decent amount about mythical creatures (being mildly obsessed with fae lore and the like), but Seanan McGuire puts me to shame. On the bright side, it means that I adore these books all the more thanks to the surprises within.

“HAIL THE VISITATION OF THE GOD OF QUESTIONABLE MOTIVATIONS!”

Obviously, the Aeslin mice are another huge bonus, they’re hilarious and adorable, all at once. It just goes to show that you can have a badass heroine and a lot of fun at the same time, and I love every second of it.

Onto the main plot, Midnight Blue-Light Special is a quick and intense read, despite the humor laced throughout. There’s no denying how dangerous (and horrific) the Covenant is, and thus there are a few heavier (and scary) scenes to be found. But that just adds to the realism in this case, as there’s no way Verity’s job can be all fun and games.

I hate myself for taking so long to pick up this series. On the bright side, my delay is allowing me to binge all nine books within a week, so there’s that! Next up is Half-Off Ragnarok, where we’re going to get a different perspective: Alex Price.

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Review: A Crown of Felling by Brindi Quinn

Author: Brindi Quinn
Series: A Crown of Echoes #3
Publisher: Never & Ever Publishing
Released: February 19th, 2021
Received: Own

A Crown of Felling is the third novel in Brindi Quinn’s A Crown of Echoes Series, and let me tell you: this is not a series you’ll want to miss out on. I know, I know. I’m horribly biased here, as Brindi Quinn is my all-time favorite indie author. But I still consider this to be the absolute truth.

After the last series of events to overturn Queen Merrin’s life, she is now (mostly) free of the echoes. They’re off searching for another powerful royal to corrupt, which is where the ‘mostly’ part of that sentence comes into play, as Merrin cannot allow that to happen.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the only problem that Merrin and her allies are going to have to deal with. Other truths are forcing their way to the surface, and not all of them are good. With these revelations come new trials, powers, and concerns for the future.

“Vita’s power was unlike anything I had felt before. The opposite of Exitium’s orphic nature, it was a feeling of continuous wonder and light.”

Holy cow. I went into A Crown of Felling with high expectations (how could I not, after the last two books?). I was not disappointed. No, that’s an understatement. I was blown away. This is, in many ways, the best novel in the series thus far.

This is the novel that truly shows the lengths to which Merrin can and will go in order to keep her kingdom and the people she loves safe. It was beautiful, powerful (no pun intended), and heartbreaking all in one. In short, it was perfect.

“I told you Ascian wasn’t our greatest foe. I really should have killed her when given the chance. “

There are so many twists in this novel, I’m honestly not even sure what to talk about next. Merrin’s character is such a bright spot in this world, and I love the narration of her story. It flows so perfectly.

Furthermore, this world is fantastic. And not just because it’s a fantasy world, to be clear. You can see Quinn’s world-building genius in every corner and detail, and it’s enough to make me want to read more about the realm.

Thankfully, there’s one more novel in this series, so I don’t have to say goodbye to this world just yet. Now to sit and patiently wait for the release of A Crown of Dawn.

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Review: Star Wars, Vol. 8: Mutiny at Mon Cala

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Released: August 7th, 2018
Received: Marvel Unlimited
Issues: Star Wars 44-49

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Many fans of Star Wars have been enjoying the fact that the adventures have continued onward in comic book form. Myself included. I’m painfully behind in the series, but have finally gotten around to reading Star Wars, Vol. 8: Mutiny at Mon Cala.

The Alliance is in desperate need of allies. That is not an uncommon need, all things considered. This time, Leia, Han, Luke, and the rest of the Rebels, have their hopes and dreams set on the Mon Calamari. The question is, will things go according to plan?

Star Wars, Vol. 8: Mutiny at Mon Cala is a fun and diverting tale. As with many of the plots so far, it’s easy to have an idea of where things will go. At least, in the long run (the downside of having a series set between known points in time).

That being said, it is still absolutely worth the read. It’s fascinating to learn a bit more about Mon Cala, and it’s people. I’ll admit that this is a bit of a weak point for me, despite always enjoying their presence in general.

Naturally, that made this whole tale a bit more engrossing for me, as I was eager to learn anything and everything. Likewise, I always enjoy seeing Leia in her take charge mode (and yeah, I know that this is also fairly constant for her).

I’ll admit a certain level of bias, as I tend to enjoy Kieron Gillen’s writing style, something which I feel like you can easily spot, even in an expansive world like Star Wars. Here what could have been just a typical side quest (because let’s be honest, that’s really all this is) is instead something a bit more entertaining.

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Review: Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Series: Witches Steeped in Gold #1
Author: Ciannon Smart
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: April 20, 2021
Received: Own (OwlCrate)
Warnings: Abuse, imprisonment, mind control, oppression

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Oh my god, I am absolutely in love with my OwlCrate copy of Witches Steeped in Gold. I’m so happy I held out for this beauty! Now I get to sit down and read Ciannon Smart’s work. Witches Steeped in Gold is the first novel in a series of the same name, and I could not be more excited.

This novel is a Jamaican-inspired fantasy, and as you might have already guessed, it features many witches. A lot of amazing witches, with common enemies, challenges, and battles all over the place.

Iraya and Jazmyne couldn’t be more different from one another if they tried. One spent her life in prison, while the other is the Queen’s daughter. They should be enemies. They should be trying to kill each other. But instead, they’re going to focus on the enemy they both share.

“Trouble doesn’t give signs like rain, so we must always be ready for it.”

Witches Steeped in Gold is one of those novels that will transport you to a world of magic – and all of the changes it brings with it. That transportation feels more literal than usual, thanks to the descriptive nature of Ciannon Smart’s writing.

Overall, I really did enjoy this read. I had a little trouble getting into it at first – it took me about 60ish pages to really get into the different narrators and their stories. Iraya and Jazmyne are so different, and yet they face a common enemy. There’s a certain level of irony there, don’t you think?

It was borderline overwhelming how much information and detail was worked into Witches Steeped in Gold. Admittedly, while I enjoyed much of this narration, it impacted the pacing of the tale. There were times where it felt slow and heavy. Again, all of that is fine, in my mind, as long as there is a payoff in the end. Trust me, my friends, there absolutely is a payoff.

While I didn’t find myself head-over-heels about the romantic subplot, I did find myself liking the characters involved. So I guess that balances out? I’m not really sure what else to say on that subject, truth be told.

I’m really curious to see where the next book in this series is going to go, and thus I’m going to be keeping an eager eye open for any announcements on the matter. Wish me luck!

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Review: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Author: Nghi Vo
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: June 1, 2021
Received: NetGalley

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Yes! It’s another novel by Nghi Vo, and I could not be more excited about that fact! The Chosen and the Beautiful is her first full novel, following novellas like When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain.

Are you ready for a coming-of-age story that blends genres, the concept of the American dream, and so much more? Jordan Baker is, all things considered, a lucky woman. She lives in the 1920s and was adopted by a wealthy family that saw her through good schools.

Only, she knows that she is treated differently in this society. She’s seen as more ‘exotic’ and outside of them, rather than just another member of the community. This probably has to do with the fact that she is adopted, Asian, and queer.

Oh! Did I mention that The Chosen and the Beautiful is essentially a Great Gatsby telling, but with a lot more flare? Yeah. Worth checking out, right?

“It was after midnight with that tired charm that all parties on the downturn acquire.”

If you’re looking for the most creative retelling of the year, I have news for you. The Chosen and the Beautiful is simultaneously exactly and nothing like The Great Gatsby. In many ways, I found it to be a significant improvement on the original. Yes, I said it.

I love how Nghi Vo picked such a classic piece of literature in order to tell her story. It was a choice that can resonate with many people and help to forge a real connection to the character and her struggles.

In short, The Chosen and the Beautiful is a fantastic read, one that I did not regret in the least. If anything, my only regret is that I couldn’t have read this novel while growing up, but that’s life, right?

Thanks to Tor.com and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Million Dollar Demon by Kim Harrison

Series: The Hollows #15
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: Ace Books
Released: June 15, 2021
Received: NetGalley

How is it that we’re fifteen novels into The Hollows series? It’s hard to believe that there have been so many, and yet I’m already looking forward to whatever comes next! Million Dollar Demon, by Kim Harrison, is not a novel to miss for fans of Rachel Morgan and all of the chaos she brings with her.

The powers that be have decided that Cincinnati needs to new master vampire, and we all know how well that is going to go. Rachel Morgan has a habit of getting in the way of master vampires, and this time the new master is gunning for her.

That would be fine, except this master is willing to tear through the city to get to Rachel. Meaning it is officially time for Rachel to step up and protect the city. Again. She’ll just have to find a way to win this fight without compromising her ideals.

“Tradition-entrenched, frightened old farts blind to reality.”

Have I mentioned how thrilled I am that we’re getting new Hollows series? Every new announcement has successfully made my day, as I hadn’t realized how much I would miss Rachel and her antics.

Moving onto the actual review now, Million Dollar Demon is absolute perfection. This is the sequel that fans and characters alike deserved. It’s tense and thrilling and showcases some of the best (and worst) that Rachel has to offer.

Frankly, there is so much to enjoy about this novel. I think my favorite bits involved the politics (what a shock, I know) and the clever lengths that Rachel went to find a way out of her current predicament.

That being said, it is by no means the only exciting element in Million Dollar Demon. Trent, Jenks (I adore that little dude), and all the rest make an appearance, as well as a few surprises. Combined with all of the subplots surrounding them, it made for one very full novel – one that I couldn’t get enough of.

It’s fascinating to see how the previous novels and their plots still play a role in what is happening now. Rachel is still reeling from all of the demon and elf business, and I, for one, cannot wait to see how that all will ultimately play out (unfortunately, I do actually have to wait…it’ll be worth it!).

I adored Million Dollar Demon and the thousands of details that worked their way into the plot. Honestly, reading the latest installment has made me crave all of the other books, so I think that a re-read is in order. And that is how you know the sequel is a success. Until next time!

Thanks to Ace Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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