A couple big-brain books and a couple no-brain books. On balance, I’d say I used all the brain cells I had to spare this month.

Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I hopefully have a guest review of this coming up soon, because I know I’m biased against it. First of all, it does the whole glorifying the gritty, coke-addled New York thing that many a book does, and while it might have been slightly more self-aware in this book, I just don’t enjoy reading that. Cleopatra and Frankenstein is very literary fiction, and I personally hated all the characters. (I think you’re supposed to) That said, apart from some inexplicable dead animal motifs, this novel is very well written and I had no problem turning page after page.

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was a solid, if pretty forgettable, romantasy. Marketed as The Cruel Prince meets A Court of Thorns and Roses, I’d say it lands well on the YA side of The Cruel Prince. Not just because of the spice level, but in general. One of the central conflicts in These Hollow Vows is that the heroine must lie to and deceive a man she is in love with in order to save her sister. While I thought this was fascinating fodder for inner conflict, it all felt a little simplistic. I was hoping we’d dig a little deeper. Could this have been because we had to read a whole separate quasi-romance with the dark-haired (and obviously endgame) enemy prince? Possibly; but that romance was nowhere near fleshed out enough to be the Rhys-Feyre imitation it’s clearly meant to be.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

Rating: 3 out of 5.

To hell with reading the second book in a series! I was so enraptured by the first of these. A Memory Called Empire is one of my favorite science fiction reads of all time, with its incredibly inventive cultures, fascinating usage of linguistics, excellent political intrigue, and completely loveable characters. But this sequel, that I was rooting for so hard, fell flat. My theory is that it tried too hard to be similar to the first—a contained crisis lasting mere days chalk-full of expansive political conflicts—when it had no chance of coming close. The politics were weaker and less interesting, as was the setting, the culture clash, and especially the bad guys, who we’ve seen before in sci-fi greats like Orson Scott Card and Frank Herbert. I do still love all the characters, though. And I love the title.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a reread, and it’s even better the second time around. Why did it feel so long the first time? Why did all the court stuff related to the trove so annoy me? Now, having read all of the Crescent City nonsense Maas has us lapping up, this book is so lovely, so easily addicting. The romance is just as excellent as I remembered, as is Nesta’s personal journey. The five stars stands!

One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ve probably read my Atlas Six or Atlas Paradox reviews, which means you know how much I love Olivie Blake’s writing. Cue me having huge expectations for this Romeo and Juliet retelling set in modern-day New York with rival witch gangs. As I expected, Blake’s writing is totally stunning. But the romances just weren’t convincing to me, and as a result, I just couldn’t buy in, not even when Blake included some genuinely clever twists.

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