Book Review · LGBTQ+ Books

Lying with Lions by Annabel Fielding book review, aka a surprising sapphic historical fiction! ✨

Hello lovelies!

I hope you are all well!! I have read so many amazing queer books this month, and even if the sapphic aspect of this story (sadly) happened off the page, I really enjoyed this one! Here’s my review!

Author: Annabel Fielding

Title: Lying with Lions

Synopsis: Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice… (Goodreads)

4 stars: Aphrodite – Goddess of love and beauty. That means that I really liked the book, whether it was the writing style, plot or characters. It means it was an amazing book that I would completely recommend for the beautiful piece of art it is. However the book is not a Persephone because something keeps it from making it one of my favourite book ever.

Iris– Goddess of rainbows. Nothing new here, we all know that rainbows represent the LGBTQ+ community so this Goddess will be featured whenever a queer relationship or character appears.

Thank you to the author for gifting me a copy of this book. All opinions are honest and my own.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and this one was no exception. The plot was intriguing enough: Agnes Ashford, an archivist is employed by the Bryant family to catalogue their archives but uncovers secrets that changes everything.
I loved the mystery aura this book had. We learn through the main character, Agnes, secrets about the mysterious Bryant family and how they each navigate arounf them. The subdued mystery/ crime aspect of the book was thrilling.

But the best part was the author’s voice. As it is mentioned in the Author’s note, so many elements of the story are inspired by historical events and historical figures but the author added their unique and interesting voice. The prose was beautiful and I highlighted so many quotes.
I liked the narration which focused on Agnes, who is a social climber with a lot of ambition. How could she not be one in the world she was living in? I didn’t find her to be particularly likable but that didn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, I loved reading about her ambition, the way her beautiful brain worked and how devoted and loyal she was (even if it was sometimes for her own gain). I will forever root for cunning, smart and ruthless young women. Her character development was the best part of the story; she began the story as a naive “little lamb” to becoming a ruthless lion under Helen’s supervision.
That’s another element I loved in the story: the romance between Agnes and Helen! I loved the fact that there was a sapphic relationship in this setting and I regret that most of the romance aspect happened off the page even though their closeness could be seen by everyone. I loved how they helped each other in their own way and also how unhealthy it was. It was raw and honest and I couldn’t get enough. And there were the other characters: Henry and Meredith who I couldn’t help rooting for. They were great “supporting” characters and it was nice to read their thoughts when the author shared them.

At some point the characters travel to Italy and the description was excellent because I felt as though I was traveling with them. This voyage was accompanied by talks of history and art which I truly enjoyed and I think the author captured Edwardian England pretty well.

I really recommend this book if you enjoy historical fictions, laced with political scheming, secrets, romance and betrayal.

Discussion post

Let’s talk about giving bad reviews on ARCs! – Discussion Post

Hello lovelies!

A few weeks ago, I went on an ARC frenzy and requested many eARCS through various medias and reviewed quite a few. There were some good ones and there were some pretty bad ones and I found myself in quite a conundrum: how was I supposed to review bad ARCs without deterring others to pick up the book? I thought I would share my thoughts on the question with a discussion post.

I don’t really think there’s a miracle solution to the question. The thing is that I want to be honest and not trick anyone into picking up a book that I, myself didn’t enjoy. There’s also the issue that a lot of us have different tastes and different expectations when we pick up a book. The diversity is actually wonderful and my guilty pleasure is reading bad reviews of my favourite books. It’s sometimes eye-opening. Now that’s completely fine when the book is published and no one expects anything from you. But for ARCS? Boy, that’s a problem.

I read an ARC and while there were many interesting and enjoyable elements, the writing style and the way the story carried out was just…not good. At all. I knew the author would read the review and I didn’t want to be that person who criticized their work. I know how much effort people put into writing a book and I know the struggle of getting a book published; it’s tough out there. I don’t think anyone needs someone picking thire book apart and ruining chances of persuading readers to give it a try. I say this because I am very easily influenced and swayed by reviews; I have a few reviewers who I trust with my life and I almost feel exactly the same way about a book that they do. Reviews are crucial. So what to do when there’s just a book that you didn’t like?

what I do, is that I try to balance it out. When I can feel myself strongly disliking a book, I still try to find good things about it: why did I request it? What interested me? Is there a character that makes things better? I try to find something enjoyable; It makes me feel less guilty about then saying what’s wrong. I try to phrase the sentence as to emphasize that it is my opinion and that there are issues that bothered me. When there’s something truly bad about a book I still think it’s important to mention it. I don’t mean problematic elements (that’s a talk for another day), but just elements that don’t work in terms of the story or the writing style. Criticism doesn’t have to be negative as long as it’s constructive. I try to pinpoint where it went wrong whether it be the pace, the writing style or the characters. I think we owe it to each other to be honest. The fact that I try to find good elements doesn’t mean I sugarcoat it but I still remember that there’s a human behind the author and that harsh reviews are not necessarily helpful (for ARCS I mean). Now back to the ARC I didn’t like, I sent all of my criticism to the author. I know I wasn’t harsh but I wasn’t praising them either. I was so stressed to hear back from the author but they actually told me the feedback was helpful and that they will focus on a few things I pointed out for future projects. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt to read that. I felt incredibly bad when I submitted it and I like that the author was understanding; When a book is out there, it is no longer your baby and people will love it or hate it; it’s fine, that means people care enough to feel something. So in conclusion my answer is: be kindly honest about how you feel.

What did you think? What do you do when an ARC you’re reading is bad? Or you have to review a bad book? Let me know in the comments!

Karla xx

blogmas · Reading Update

Blogmas Day #14 – Reading Update!

Hello lovelies!

Welcome to day 14 of blogmas! December is passing by way too quickly.

Books I read this week

(ARC) Afterlove by Tanya Byrne – 3/5 stars. This book had an interesting plot but it was much darker than I thought it would be and it was kind of disappointing. See my full review here.

(ARC) Dearest Josephine by Caroline George – 4/5 stars. This book was a nice surprise and I adored the writing style! You can see my full review here.

How the King of Elfhame learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black – 5/5 stars. This book was everything I hoped it would be. Its only flaw was that it was too short because I can never get enough.

Books I’m currently reading

Finale (Caraval #3) – Stephanie Garber. I am halfway through the audiobook and I am really enjoying it so far!! I daresay it’s my favourite of the series. Also the author announced another book featuring one of the characters and I’m going to look into that after I’m done reading to avoid spoilers.

Empire of Storms – Sarah J. Maas. Really hoping i get to finish this this week so I can finally move to the end of the series! I’m loving this book and everything that happens, I’ve just been very busy so picking up my e-reader was easier than this 600+ pages book.

Opposition (Lux #5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I picked it up again today! I was kind of bored reading this but I found my mojo back and I can’t wait to finish this series after so many years.

What I want to read next

Any book I should prioritize?

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? Let me know in the comments!

blogmas · Book Review

Blogmas Day #12 – Dearest Josephine by Caroline George – eARC review

Hello lovelies! Welcome to day 12 of blogmas!

I didn’t plan to write this today but I just finished reading this wonderful book and I couldn’t help but write a review also because you know, this is an ARC so I technically have to write a review.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Title: Dearest Josephine

Author: Caroline George

Synopsis: (Goodreads) Caroline George sweeps readers up into two different time periods with an unexpected love story that prompts us to reimagine what it means to be present with the people we love.

2020: Chocolate and Earl Grey tea can’t fix Josie De Clare’s horrible year. She mourned the death of her father and suffered a teen-life crisis, which delayed her university plans. But when her father’s will reveals a family-owned property in Northern England, Josie leaves London to find clarity at the secluded manor house. While exploring the estate, she discovers two-hundred-year-old love letters written by an elusive novelist, all addressed to someone named Josephine. And then she discovers a novel in which it seems like she’s the heroine…

1820: Novelist Elias Roch loves a woman he can never be with. Born the bastard son to a nobleman and cast out from society, Elias seeks refuge in his mind with the quirky heroine who draws him into a fantasy world of scandal, betrayal, and unconditional love. Convinced she’s his soulmate, Elias writes letters to her, all of which divulge the tragedy and trials of his personal life.

As fiction blurs into reality, Josie and Elias must decide: How does one live if love can’t wait? Separated by two hundred years, they fight against time to find each other in a story of her, him, and the novel written by the man who loves her

Expected publication:  February 2nd 2021 by Thomas Nelson

4 stars: Aphrodite – Goddess of love and beauty. That means that I really liked the book, whether it was the writing style, plot or characters. It means it was an amazing book that I would completely recommend for the beautiful piece of art it is. However the book is not a Persephone (5 stars) because something keeps it from making it one of my favourite book ever.

This book is incredibly unique. I loved the epistolary form (through letters, emails, texts…) and the embedded story. At first, I thought the format would be confusing, that I wouldn’t be able to set the characters apart and distinguish what was real and what was fiction. I’ma happy to report that it was not the case because the writing style was flawless. I have not read such a well-written book in a while. I’m usually more plot or character-driven but the writing style was enough to make me care. If you read the synopsis then you know we get to read letters from Elias Roch who lives in the 19th century and I can tell the amount of research the author went through (at least I think haha) into making Elias’ letters sound as authentic as they are. I’m a sucker for love letters and his were Mr Darcy-level good. I could even tell the influences of Jane Austen or even Emily Brontë ( i.e “If you are a ghost, then haunt me”). through some quotes or lines that made me think of 19th century literature. It was a real joy to read this. I loved the sarcasm, wit and love seeping through the letters, emails, texts and emails. I highlighted so many quotes from this book one of my favourites being:

I meant humans often fail to acknowledge the beauty around them, but their lack of notice doesn’t determine a thing’s value. Gorse does not require an audience to grow, and neither do people. We aren’t who we are because of what others see or say.”

I absolutely loved all of the characters and the fact that some of them were flawed. I mean the book begins with Josephine apologizing for being a bad friend. I liked how the author didn’t sugarcoat anything and delved into the characters’ emotions. It was so pure and raw and I think it conveyed every feeling beautifully – especially grief. I liked how each character had its own voice and seeing some of them growing and coming to terms with who they are was so beautiful.

I enjoyed the way “romance” was depicted in this even if I’m not really a fan of instalove. I like seeing my characters fall in love through the pages but the book solves that issue in some aspects so I guess it was okay.

Now let’s talk about the ending which made me both want to throw the book across my bed (I promise, no reading devices were harmed while reading this book) as well as swoon. I audibly went “aww” when I read the last pages. I think overall this was a beautiful book about healing and looking for love in life, the little things and the people around us.

I highly recommend!

Reading Project · Reading Update

Books I’m hoping to read before the year ends!

Hello lovelies!

I am very happy to report that I reached my Goodreads challenge of reading 50 books this year! I’m so proud of myself! Last year I managed to read 45 books and right now I read 6 more books than last year. Of course lockdown and quarantine are reasons why I read more; but I also joined book twitter and took my bookstagram more seriously so I discovered so many great books and people who pushed me to read more. Overall I have had a great reading year so far. Since I don’t have the pressure of reaching my Goodreads goal, I’m free to read how many books I like!

I have so many books I want to read but realistically, with my slow reading pace and my busy school schedule, I don’t think I’ll manage to read all of my “end of the year hopefuls” but we’ll see. Here’s my list:

Finish the Throne of Glass series and start Crescent City

I’m currently reading Empire of Storms and I AM LOVING IT. And I really want to finish the series this year but the books are all quite big (600- 800 pages) and I don’t think I’ll have enough time to read everything before 2021. But let’s be hopeful!

The Poppy War – R.F Kuang

I have seen this book everywhere so I gave into tentation and I bought it last month. Since I didn’t read as much as I had hoped, I haven’t gotten around to this. I’m hoping to read this one before the year ends!

Advanced Reading Copies

I had the brilliant idea of requesting books on Netgalley, when I already have so many books on my physical TBR but I just couldn’t resist. Afterlove is a sapphic book about Ash who is about to become a reaper in the afterlife but who is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again. Dearest Josephine is a book about a girl who discovers old love letters written by an elusive novelist two centuries before and it seems like she is the heroine….So excited to read these!

Opposition (Lux series #5)

This is the last book in this series! I started it years ago and I finally managed to reach book 5! This is one of my favourite series and I really want to see how it all ends!

Finale (Caraval #3) by Stephanie Garber

I have read the two previous books as audiobooks so I purchased the third one also as an audiobook! The narrator is fantastic and I can’t wait to see how everything all ends.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

The raving reviews were enough for me to instantly buy this book. This book follows the life of 12 Black and British women through their hardships and victories. I really want to read this before the year ends.

That’s it! Fingers crossed! Thank you for reading xx

Book Review

ARC Review- Making Room for You by MaryAnn Clarke

Hello lovelies! Hope you are all doing well. This is the first book I have read this year and I loved it! I received an Advanced Review Copy on Reedsy Discovery (you can find the same review there).

Title: Making Room for you

Author: MaryAnn Clarke

Synopsis: From an award-winning author, comes Making Room for You, an inspiring, heart-warming enemies-to-lovers romantic fiction tale. Gifted architect Alexa Jenner has a strategic plan for architectural stardom and the ultimate goal of an independent practice. She vitally needs a prestigious new project, but her boss and mentor-with-benefits stands in the way.Bruce Koczynski has success in spades, living a life of leisure after selling his software company for millions. But money can’t buy the thing he was deprived of as a child, and desires most. When crisis obliges them to play house, a few weeks in each other’s company disrupts their carefully constructed plans. 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Continue reading “ARC Review- Making Room for You by MaryAnn Clarke”