Spoiler Free Review: Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Velvet Was the Night

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Pub. Date: August 17th 2021

Genre: Thriller Mystery/Historical Fiction

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Del Rey

Pages: 289 pages

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1970’s Mexico City is where we meet our MC Maite, a Secretary with a passion for romance comics and a love for music records crooning lyrics she can get lost in. She doesn’t see much excitement in her life and can’t imagine that changing anytime soon, so she escapes into her comics where she envisions herself as the woman being swept off her feet by a handsome and daring man. This all changes when her neighbor hires her to cat sit and then mysteriously disappears, Maite sees herself thrown into the hunt for Leonora during a very dangerous time in Mexico. Elvis is a criminal who loathes violence and loves Rock ’N’ Roll (Presley is his idol), he was picked up off the streets and trained as part of a Paramilitary group called “The Hawks” in squashing student protests by brute force. He comes across Maite when his latest job has him looking for Leonora aka the missing woman. He’s ordered to watch her and begins to fall for the many things they share in common despite her not being his usual type.
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As a backdrop in the city, Sylvia Moreno Garcia writes of the very real life Corpus Christi Massacre that took place in 1971. When 10,000 student demonstrators set to the streets to peacefully protest oppression and demand Democracy. This was during the time Mexico was governed by only one party known as the PRI aka the Institutional Revolutionary Party which was viewed as a dictatorship. The “Halcones” or Falcones were a real pay-for-hire group trained by the CIA.
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As I make my way through Silvia Moreno Garcia’s backlist, I will start ranking them in hopes of a dedication post for my favorite author. 𝑴𝒆𝒙𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝑮𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒄 still reigns in my heart as my favorite SMG, however I really enjoyed this book. Maite will NOT be everyone’s cup of tea but I personally enjoy unlikeable characters. This book is heavy on the events that took place in Mexico during the 60’s surrounding students & government. If you enjoy having a bit of Historical Fiction weaved throughout or in this case where it’s the back drop, then you’ll probably really enjoy this one. I felt the author nailed it when she described it as having a very Pulp Noir feel, I definitely got those vibes. We have a mystery at the core, political unrest in the background, two MC’s with a deep appreciation of older Rock N’ Roll and career criminals in the mix. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is known for her signature mark of blending multiple genres, Velvet was the Night is a mash up of Mystery Thriller and Historical Fiction. I have come to expect to be pleasantly surprised every time I pick up a SMG book because I know that it won’t have the same feel as any of her other books. It’s become a little thrilling in a sense to see what she has in store within the pages of the next book. If you enjoy music while you read, check out SMG’s Velvet Was the Night Playlist on Spotify!


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Spoiler Free Review: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novak

Title: A Deadly Education

Author: Naomi Novak

Pub. Date: September 29th 2020

Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Pages: 336 pages

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🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review🖤

It’s really hard not to love a boarding school set Fantasy with young sorcerers in the making. Here’s one with what many will probably call, an unlikeable character. Galadriel aka El has been surviving in Scholomance, a school/castle that runs on magic sans the teachers. The school is home to many demons & monsters who prey on the youth snatching as many kills as possible. El is now in her second to last year before graduation and therefore well versed in the many inner school alliances being formed before graduation day. This isn’t your typical graduation…in Scholomance, making it through the great hall of monsters and the graduation gates without being eaten alive is a challenge many fail to accomplish. El doesn’t have any friends at the school, her moods are often dark & she’s not exactly the happiest person to come across. It was at a very young age that a prophecy was made by her very own grandmother that spoke of destruction at her hands. Still, to be in El’s inner monologue for me at least was a real treat. She has the type of dark sarcasm/humor I love in people & she doesn’t hold back. While others are busy forming alliances between enclaves (families in all major cities, sort of like covens) El is busy refilling her crystals with as much energy she can muster for the big day. We follow her as she lives in a perpetual state of annoyance with the student who can’t stop from saving her whenever her life is in danger. There’s more to El than many of the students can see and sometimes holding back is the best route to take…for the sake of others that is.

A Deadly Education is honestly NOT what I expected from Naomi Novak but I say that in the best of ways! I’ve read only Spinning silver but I LOVED that book simply because I appreciate a true story teller who can weave us a world lush with magic so well that it practically pulls you in. THIS is how I felt reading from El’s POV! as if it were me in a fight for my life in a school intent on killing me at every turn. Scholomance may not have teachers supervising however the curriculums are rigorous and intense with little room for slacking. Spells are learned/cast in many different languages as well as traded for favors between the students. I found the inner workings of the school & the trade system to be hella unique. Our MC has just the right amount of snark & the side characters gave it real bad a** Shadowhunter vibes. It isn’t the fastest read & the plot is legit just El & cast trying to survive in this school but it kept me flipping pages into the wee hours. Also, love the fact that we are set up to dislike El for being bit self centered but in reality that couldn’t be more far from the truth. Misunderstood & often dubbed nlikeable female leads are my bread & butter! I’m looking forward to the next installment…


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SPOILER FREE REVIEW: SPINNING SILVER BY NAOMI NOVIK❄️

Title: SPINNING SILVER

Author: NAOMI NOVAK

Pub. Date: July 10th. 2018

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Re-telling

Publisher: DEL REY

Pages: 448

Content Warning: Anti-antisemitism, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, death of a family member, and violence

*HUGE thanks to Del Rey for the early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion

    

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I’m not quick to say I have a type when it comes to books or anything for that matter however, this slower paced wintry read seems to fall in line with some of my favorites (think The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden or The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco). Spinning Silver is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, an adult fantasy that takes on real life hard hitting issues (please see Content Warnings above) while weaving a tale about debts owed and the relentless winter that is plaguing the land. A tale about three daughters left to pay the price of bad decisions made by their fathers. Their lives intertwined–Miryem, Wanda, and Irinushka have every odd set against them in a world that would soon rather have them married and birthing children than in a position of power.

Told through multiple points of view, we start off with ❄Miryem❄ who loves her father for the good man that he is but recognizes how terrible he is as a money lender. Miryem and her family are struggling in poverty while those in the village that have borrowed from her father continue to prosper whilst not paying their debts. Money lending runs in the family & just like her grandfather Miryem has a knack for collecting from those that owe her. She sets out to settle the books and quickly makes a turnaround of their fate. However, she also manages to capture the attention of the Staryk King aka Lord Winter himself. The Staryk believes Miryem may have the power to transform silver into gold and promises her his hand in marriage if after his 3 visits, she has made into gold all of the silver he brings her. Each load he drops off being impossibly larger than the last because deep down inside, this Staryk King doesn’t see Miryem as a worthy Queen. Meanwhile, Miryem’s “Cold” approach seems to match the Satryk King quite well IMO 😂

❄Wanda❄ works for Miryem’s family tending to the house-chores and any manual labor. Miryem teaches Wanda her #’s and takes her long when collecting monies owed. In Miryem’s home, Wanda learns what love looks like and it isn’t the daily beatings she gets at the hands of her alcoholic father. Sort of an adoptive daughter, Wanda finds herself looking after Miryem’s parents and plays an important role later on in the story. I really love Wanda’s character, she’s someone who if shown even a little love to, will honestly go hard for you. We see this play out with her own brothers which made her scenes so heartfelt 💓

Irinushka❄ daughter of royals, Irinushka’s father has already promised her hand to a Tsar as a way to gain political favor. The Tsar has a deep dark secret he’s keeping & is the reason for which he has yet married and produced an heir. There’s a ton of pressure on Irinushka & instead of succumbing to it, we see an intellectual rise up and make some interesting power plays. Irinushka is a natural at politics 😉

❄There are also a slew of supporting characters that come in throughout the story. Many are memorable like Irinushka’s Nana of sorts who raised her and only wants to see her happy. We also travel a bit with Wanda’s brothers. In the Staryk King’s world we meet a different kind of people who at first come off as cold hearted but end up being quite the opposite❄

There are very few books I’ve come across with the power to transport me from the very first page. Usually it takes some settling in and getting to know the world a bit. Spinning Silver however is already set-up and literally feels like opening the door in the back of the closet that leads you to Narnia. These make for some of my favorite reads and linger behind even after I’ve closed the book. At times this book was heavy on the heart with scenes of violence in Wanda’s home. Seeing her & her siblings being physically hurt mercilessly and the fear they carried was tough to get through. Paired with the very different home life of Miryem and the love her family has for one another made for a deeper connection to these characters lives. We see a village deeply rooted in antisemitism, Miryem is Jewish and is seen honoring the Sabbath even in the most undesirable circumstances. In the background we have the threat of an endless Winter and we see the effects it takes on the people. I only docked it half a star because we get so many POV’s throughout & although it was written in a way so as to not make it overwhelming, it still felt like I could do without some. I found myself wanting to get back to certain fave characters quicker than others but that is not unheard of in a multi-POV story. Overall, I highly reccomend this spell-binding tale over a cup of hot Cocoa or Tea ❄


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Spoiler Free Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Title: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2)

Author: Katherine Arden

Pub. Date: December 5th, 2017

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Publisher: Del Rey

Pages: 363

Format: eGalley & Physical ARC

    

Words? what are they? I seriously don’t think I can do this book justice but because I feel EVERYONE should read this trilogy, I will pull myself together & let you all know why Katherine Arden is a force to be reckoned with. I thought Arden’s debut The Bear and the Nightingale was AMAZING! If this author never wrote anything again, I would’ve been saddened but also would’ve felt like I had found a diamond I could treasure for the rest of my life! a lush & vivid world I can see myself returning to on a cold winter night year after year. I was NOT expecting to be blown away by its sequel The Girl in the Tower! not only has our MC grown since the last time we saw her but the world itself has expanded & developed to give us readers a better picture of Vasya’s travels & adventures outside her small village & woods. We last left off with Vasya having no choice but to leave her only known home once she was labeled a witch. It was expected that she’d be sent to her sister Olya in Moscow to be paired off in marriage & spend her days with the other women who live in a tower child rearing & running their households. Vasya however has never had an interest in these things & could never be tied down for the rest of her days. Having always found comfort in “boys clothing” she finds she can see the world without restrictions.

Choosing instead to map out her own destiny, Vasya sets off into the woods on her horse Solovey. If The Bear and the Nightingale was mostly world-building & the fleshing out of characters, this follow-up introduces a fast paced plot while also balancing & building upon its predecessor. Villages are being pillaged and burned, their little girls are being stolen away from their families. Vasya finds herself in the middle of it all as she fights the bandits and eventually captures the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow with her bravery. We follow Vasya as she uncovers the sinister forces threatening the kingdom all whilst keeping her true identity hidden.

Vasya- still holds the title of my Most Favorite MC in all of Fantasy! Her independence, self worth, bravery, fierceness and determination not to conform to society’s gender norms speak to my soul. In The Bear and the Nightingale we are introduced to a young Vasya who is considered very wild and rebellious. In this follow-up, we get to see how much she’s matured while still staying true to who she is at her core. I loved seeing older Vasya experience new things and emotions.

”Sudden anger burned out Vasya’s gathering hurt. She pushed back her chair and stood again. “I am not your dog”, she snapped. “You May tell me to go home, but I may choose not to. Do you think that is all I want, in all my life—a royal dowry, and a man to force his children into me?” 

 Morozko aka Frost Demon aka King of Winter – Morozko plays a integral role in this story but it wasn’t until this follow-up that I truly grew to love this character. Think of him a mix of Father Winter & Grimm Reaper, his broodiness was on another level & for some reason I found this to be so endearing smh #dontjudgeme haha!

Solovey – My fave character in this whole book is Solovey who is Vasya’s horse & UGH! my heart can’t contain the love I have for this sassy four legged creature! besides the sass he is SUPER protective & loyal to Vasya which is always admirable.

Sasha aka Aleksandr – Vasya’s older brother who also decided to carve his own path & become a monk. This however doesn’t mean he is a peaceful monk lol, Sasha can be found protecting his cousin The Grand Prince which means swords a plenty. I LOVE the sibling relationship between Vasya and Sasha, moments where he wishes she’d just conform to the norm & marry but then quickly realizes that the thought alone sounds absurd. Sasha accepts & many times admires Vasya on the battlefield. He’s seriously the brother I wish I’d always had 🙂

Olya – Vasya’s older sister, last we heard of her she had gotten married and left to Moscow to tend to her household. Olya has always been sort of a mother figure to her siblings so it was interesting seeing her very different relationship with Vasya. Olya loves all of her siblings & doesn’t always understand the things they do but she’s always represented home for them.

Marya – One of the newest characters introduced towards the end, Marya is Olya’s young daughter. Although she didn’t have a huge role in this book, we get the feeling there will be more to her story. Marya is free spirited just like Vasya & as such looks up to her aunt. I got a vivid picture of young Marya who will remind many of the Vasya we were first introduced to however, she is definitely more outspoken 😉

Last but definitely not least are the spirits aka Chyerti you will find hidden in the ovens, bath houses, horse stables, and door yards. These are perhaps some of my most favorite characters in this world. I’m totally considering leaving an offering in my oven to see if my Domovoi shows up *fingers crossed* 😉

It comes as no surprise that I am absolutely OBSESSED with Katherine Arden’s writing! I would’ve never guessed when I was handed a copy of the book by the author herself at Comic Con that she was giving me the BEST gift ever! I can think of no other books that better capture the magic and beauty of winter. A cozy blanket on a cold winter night is what I always use to describe this book to my book blogging buddies & wrap you up it will. Many who found The Bear and the Nightingale to be on the slower side might find themselves really enjoying the faster paced plot in The Girl in the Tower. I for one don’t mind a slow paced world as long as it’s rich & inviting like these are. Also, there is a clear cut villain this time which felt like the connecting puzzle piece & I just loved seeing it all come together. I am SUPER STOKED for The Winter of the Witch in 2018!!! as sad as I’m sure I will be to see it end, I am confident Katherine Arden will give us all a EPIC ending to this amazing trilogy 🙂

*Many thanks to Del Rey, Netgalley, and Katherine Arden for the eGalley copy of  The Girl in the Tower in exchange for an honest review.


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