The Lost Queen – Signe Pike

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 11.40.14 AMPublisher: Touchstone

Publication Date: September 4th, 2018

Page Count: 544

From the Jacket:

I write because I have seen the darkness that will come. Already there are those who seek to tell a new history…

In a land of mountains and mist, tradition and superstition, Languoreth and her brother Lailoken are raised in the Old Way of their ancestors. But in Scotland, a new religion is rising, one that brings disruption, bloodshed, and riot. And even as her family faces the burgeoning forces of Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons, bent on colonization, are encroaching from the east. When conflict brings the hero Emrys Pendragon to her father’s door, Languoreth finds love with one of his warriors. Her deep connection to Maelgwn is forged by enchantment, but she is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of a Christian king. As Languoreth is catapulted into a world of violence and political intrigue, she must learn to adapt. Together with her brother—a warrior and druid known to history as Myrddin—Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way and the survival of her kingdom, or risk the loss of them both forever.

Based on new scholarship, this tale of bravery and conflicted love brings a lost queen back to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of one of the most enduring legends of all time.

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The Lost Queen cast a spell on me from the start and I could not put it down. I’ve always been fascinated by Arthurian legends, specifically the stories about Merlin. What I did not realize, is that Merlin had a twin sister called Languoreth who has been all but lost to history. The cover blurb says, “Outlander meets Camelot”, which is what initially caught my attention, but Languoreth’s story is even more captivating than Claire’s.

The world building and careful attention to detail in The Lost Queen are rich and vibrant.  Set against the backdrop of the Scottish countryside during the 6th century, the story opens when Languoreth and her brother Lialoken are ten, and have just lost their mother. Raised in the Old Way, Languoreth’s mother was a powerful healer and wisdom keeper and both she and her brother have been born with the gift. However, because her father is king, Languoreth is not allowed to pursue her own desires to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and must instead agree to a political marriage to ensure the survival of her kingdom. She feels trapped and resentful of her lot, but with Christianity on the rise, and the invasion of the Angles, there is war coming that will threaten their way of life and change everything.

There are so so so many things to love about this book. With a cast of unforgettable characters, it made me laugh, rage, and cry. It filled me with longing, and transported me to another time and place. Pike’s writing is gorgeous and hypnotic, and she resurrects a time period and way of life that was lost so long ago. With Langoureth and Lialoken, she captures the unbreakable bond that exists between siblings, and with Maelgwn, the breathtaking passion and helplessness of fated love. And perhaps most authentically and powerfully for me, with Languoureth and her children, she writes of the sacred beauty that is the bond between mother and child. Weaved in with these relationships, there is adventure and intrigue and incredible feats of bravery. Langoureth is an extraordinary heroine and I’m so grateful her story will continue in Pike’s magical hands.

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At the end of the book, Pike includes a fascinating author’s note about her inspiration and the years she spent researching to make this portrayal as historically accurate as possible. The story she created is in and of itself incredible, but to know that it was based on real people made it larger than life for me. This is just the first of a trilogy and I can legitimately say that I have no idea how I will survive the wait for the next one. The Lost Queen is easily in my all time favorites, and I know I will revisit it time and again. Despite the fact that I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review (thank you so much to Touchstone and Edelweiss), I plan on buying my own physical copy to treasure and share. I highly encourage you to pick this one up, especially if you enjoy historical fiction and epic family sagas.

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Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

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Publisher: Crown

Publication Date: August 21st, 2018

Page Count: 512

From the Jacket:

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

Holy forking shirt balls, this book is fantastic! In Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett has created an epic urban fantasy full to bursting with a completely inventive magical system, mind bending scientific details, creative world building, vibrant characters and an impossible heist plot. It was completely addicting and I abandoned all of my nightly responsibilities until I finished it.

The city of Tevanne is ruled over by merchant houses, each vying against the other for power and money by selling magic. Through a magical technology known as ‘scriving’, inanimate objects are given coded commands which allow them to defy reality. (Here, Bennett spares no details, and describes in great detail how this technology works. It is absolutely enchanting and one of my favorite aspects of the book.) In order to scrive within the city, you must belong to one of the merchant houses, and gifted scrivers work to produce house designs in exchange for the comfort and safety of living within the house walls. Those that do not belong to a house live in extreme poverty and must fight daily to survive. Because of that, the city is also home to an active underworld of independent scrivers who create knock off designs for profit.

It is in this underworld where we meet Sancia, a talented thief with a very dark past, who survives life in Tevanne by taking risky jobs.  After successfully pulling off a particularly difficult robbery, she breaks one of her rules, and opens the box she has stolen. It is the discovery of what the box contains that sets off a chain of reactions that cannot be undone. Suddenly, she finds that her business partner is dead and she is being hunted by a powerful group of assassins who are wielding a kind of power previously unseen in Tevanne. While hiding out on a rooftop, she sees one of the men chasing her turn off all of the scrived devices in the city at the touch of a single button, causing panic and devastation (imagine the scene in Revolution when all the power goes out all over the world).

Sancia barely escapes with her life, and in order to stop the men pursuing her, she partners with some very unlikely people. Together they discover a truly horrifying plot that will forever alter their world. Racing against a very tight timeline, they plan a crazy scheme to break into the most guarded place in the city and pull off the heist to end all others. The action does not let up until the very end, and the last few pages will leave you very impatiently waiting for more.

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This book was so much fun to read! The plot moved quickly, and all the while Bennett  built a vivid and realistic world, full of political intrigue, unforgettable characters and fascinating technical explanations about scriving. This is definitely not your typical fantasy novel.  It gave me the same sort of vibes I got while reading the Broken Earth series, and if you enjoyed that crazy ride, I think this one is for you. Foundryside comes out tomorrow, so do yourself a favor and pick it up! A huge thank you to Netgalley and Crown Publishing for sending me this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Hey Ladies! – Michelle Markowitz & Caroline Moss

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 7.35.02 PMPublisher: Harry N. Abrams

Publication Date: May 1st, 2018

Page Count: 272 (Paperback)

From the Jacket:

Based on the column of the same name that appeared in The Toast, Hey Ladies! is a laugh-out-loud read that follows a fictitious group of eight 20-and-30-something female friends for one year of holidays, summer house rentals, dates, brunches, breakups, and, of course, the planning of a disastrous wedding. This instantly relatable story is told entirely through emails, texts, DMs, and every other form of communication known to man.

The women in the book are stand-ins for annoying friends that we all have. There’s Nicole, who’s always broke and tries to pay for things in Forever21 gift cards. There’s Katie, the self-important budding journalist, who thinks a retweet and a byline are the same thing. And there’s Jen, the DIY suburban bride-to-be. With a perfectly pitched sardonic tone, Hey Ladies! will have you cringing and laughing as you recognize your own friends, and even yourself.

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Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way too Many Emails, follows a group of friends as they attempt to plan a wedding and all of the craziness that goes along with that. I’ve been dying to read this one since I first heard about it on Bookstagram several months ago.  It’s written in the epistolary style, which is one of my absolute favorites and such a fun and unique way to tell a story. The entire plot is conveyed through email, text messages, drawn maps, and even selfies (also drawn, which makes them downright hilarious). Hey Ladies is over the top in its ridiculousness, and is as equally hilarious as it is frustrating. The plot is addicting, racing from one outlandish thing to the next, and once I started I could not put it down. In an effort to keep track of all the characters, I flipped regularly to the back of the book to refer to this picture. However, the authors did a wonderful job giving each character a unique voice, and I was able to stop checking after the first couple of chapters.

 

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Katie – Sweet and fun and completely wrapped up in her burgeoning love life. Katie is the kind of friend that asks if she can bring her new boyfriend to the destination bachelorette party.

Ali – The Queen B. She’s assertive in every aspect of the word and pulls the trigger on decisions her friends have been waffling on, often picking the most expensive option and then sending everyone a Venmo invoice. She means well, but her financial success makes her oblivious to the idea that money can be an obstacle for friends.

Gracie – The chillest one in the bunch. She’s got her own life, is rarely able to attend group functions, and almost never reads the mountain of emails that come in each day. I think I identified with her the most and also found her to be the most realistic.

Ashley – Poor Ashley is never around as she is currently teaching in Connecticut, where she gets shoddy wifi and is usually the last to find out about what the group has been up to. She pops in and out throughout the story with funny school anecdotes and brings welcome comedic relief when things get tense with the rest of the group.

Morgan – Lives in Brooklyn and is defined by living in Brooklyn and is always trying to convince her friends to come and visit her in Brooklyn. I’ve had friends that lived in Brooklyn and this is just too accurate. I love Morgan so much.

Nicole – She’s constantly broke but is always there for her friends and never wants to miss out on anything. Her email responses are the first to come in with an RSVP, but almost always begin with a plea for financial help.

Caitlin – Self-made health and lifestyle guru, the spirit in her salutes the spirit in you, and she’s ready to help you Caitlin Your LifeTM. She’s constantly changing her diet from one extreme to another and at one point refers to herself as celiac. The authors nailed the ridiculousness that can sometimes be social media, and I found Caitlin to be one of the funniest parts of the book.

Jen – Also known as Brad’s Jen (self-named). He’s the love of her life and all of her decisions are wrapped up in him…until they’re not. Her love hate struggle will give you whiplash and leave you in giggles.

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This was just a delight to read and I highly recommend reading this one with your friends or bookclub.