The City of Stardust

“Once upon a time, in a magical city on a distant shore, lived Ever Everly.”

The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers
Book Cover: The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers.

The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers is a fast-paced fantasy novel that centers around a family curse, magic, fairytales, and monsters.

On the surface, The City of Stardust has everything I want in a fantasy novel–a strong female protagonist, magic, monsters, and a decent villain. However, in the end, I felt the novel was a letdown.

Violet Everly grew up in seclusion, kept secret from the world, with no explanation. At the age of 10, her mother leaves, and her uncles Ambrose and Gabriel take over her care. Slowly, Violet becomes aware of the family curse, and the reasons for her mother’s departure.

While the family curse is ultimately explained, in my opinion, it still left a lot of gaping plot holes. Throughout the story, we find Violet following the trail left by her mother Marianne, and this is also a huge letdown. Although I suppose the door is open for a follow-up novel that tells Marianne’s story.

For a novel with magic at its center, we see very little of the magic. The story focuses on the Everly curse and the search for the City of Stardust. The magic is almost an afterthought, which is too bad.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Redhook Books for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own. Links in this review are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands

Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands is the second book in the Emily Wilde series by Heather Fawcett. Emily is a professor and dryadologist, and these books follow her on adventures.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, I’d suggest starting there. If you have read it and enjoyed it, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.

This time, Emily and her handsome, scholarly companion, Wendell Bambleby are on the run. They are being chased by nefarious faeries and other Folk. Why? Because Wendell is an exiled Faerie king, and his treacherous stepmother has finally decided to kill him.

Emily is learning from her mistakes, and there’s a lot of character development and growth for both her and Wendell. These books also tend to be more serious, and are more about the characters and their adventures than the romance. Although, of course there is a romantic relationship. Sort of, maybe?

I found this to be a fun, quick read. Emily is a quirky protagonist, who doesn’t always get it right. This is refreshing, and yet it bothers me that we seem to have either gorgeous women who can do no wrong, or they are like Emily and described as disheveled, slovenly, hunched over books incessantly, and often unfeeling or insensitive to others.. Isn’t there something in the middle? Can’t we have a woman who’s not perfect but also not the worst?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Del Rey for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.

In the Lives of Puppets

I was so excited when NetGalley sent me an ARC of In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune. I have enjoyed everything I have read by TJ Klune, and was eager to read this.

I know I mention this in many of my reviews, but discussing this novel without giving away too much of the plot is a challenge. I don’t want to spoil it for y’all!

[Pausing to go read the official book description.]

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; They reveal almost everything in the blurb, which is why I usually avoid reading them. I guess that means I can continue without worrying about spoilers, as I won’t mention anything they haven’t already spoiled.

Our protagonist, Victor, lives in a world filled with robots. Some are humanoid, while others, like Rambo, are not—Rambo is obvi a modified Roomba. It’s very Swiss Family Robinson meets Wall•E. Pinocchio’s influence is also evident, especially given the epigraphs.

I absolutely love the world this story is set in—the freaky robots-rule-the-world-post-apocalypse future that we’ve all been afraid of since learning about Skynet from The Terminator. I wish there were more about how this world came to be, the (other) robots, and the City of Electric Dreams (which must be Las Vegas, right?).

Who would have imagined a sarcastic semi-psychotic nurse robot (Registered Automaton To Care, Heal, Educate and Drill—Nurse Ratched for short) and a dim-witted but loyal and loving Roomba as the ultimate family and adventure companions? Each character has unique quirks and personalities, drawing us into their world.

As we delve into Victor’s life amid a world of robots, we’re forced to reconsider our understanding of what it means to be human and reflect on the potential for artificial intelligence to experience genuine emotions and self-awareness. Can a robot truly experience emotions? Possess free will and its own unique desires? What does having a heart mean for a machine?

In conclusion, In the Lives of Puppets masterfully balances this introspection with humor, adventure, and the occasional heartstring tug, making it an engaging and thought-provoking read. This novel is a must-read for fans of TJ Klune and anyone who enjoys a unique, thought-provoking, and entertaining story. And after finishing it, you’ll be crossing your fingers and hoping for more featuring these characters and their world, just like me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.

The Secret Within

The Secret Within by Sean Platt and David Wright is an urban fantasy novel about a psychic detective, Delaney West. Delaney has been hired to find a missing person, and his girlfriend, Anika, might be the only one with answers.

This novel started well and was exciting and engaging. I was into the mystery, and I liked the premise of the psychic detective. However, I feel like it failed to develop Delaney’s character’s supernatural aspects to sufficient depth early in the novel.

Also, it takes a wildly unexpected twist at the end, which felt very Deus Ex Machina / WTF. It reminded me of how I felt watching the end of Annihilation. Angry, disappointed, and overall unsatisfied.

Unfortunately, it went off the rails for me, and I would not recommend this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Sterling & Stone for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.