The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzi Lee

Right off the bat I’m going to warn you that there is homophobia, biphobia, abuse, suicidal thoughts, racism and ableism. But it’s set in the 1700s so it’s expected and there is on the page tackling of issues.

Monty and Percy are set to go on a wild tour of Europe before Percy goes to school in Amsterdam and Monty starts to learn about the estate he is to inherit. Monty is a huge playboy who spends the majority of his time drunk and gambling so their trip doesn’t go exactly as planned after a slew of different accidental occurrences. But then the pair along with Monty’s sister Felicity stumble upon a much darker plot that could change the world.

You have to listen to this on audiobook because it’s read by Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson) and he reads it so perfectly, he IS Monty.

We have some really good representation in this book as the main character is bi in a time when that was definitely not accepted and his best friend is his love inferest who was brought up by a white rich family even though he is mixed race so it was good to read their points of view in the historical terms. It also brought about some interesting situations in the novel as well as there being some really horrible behaviour from adults that bears talking about as LGBTQ+ issues are often glossed over or forgotten about if we’re talking anything before the 1800s but after the Romans.

Percy has epilepsy and this is going to sound bad but it was so good to read about because for 1: it’s not really mentioned in books; and secondly as it’s set before modern medicine it’s seen as like something supernatural and he needs to go to an asylum which I found really interesting to read because I’d never thought about epilepsy being understood as something that isn’t medical.

The whole adventure of this novel was wild from start to finish I had no idea what was going to happen next. It’s not often I say that because hey I read a lot I get pretty good at guessing. Because of how wild Monty is you never know what he’s going to get himself into next and how that’s going to change every thing. Things get a little farfetched at times but the author is so completely unapologetic about it that you get so swept up in the story that you forget that it’s unrealistic.

I think part of the reason I could not stop listening to this was because Lee really made me care for the characters. Monty is horrible, in a truly teenage boy way. But you really find yourself caring for him because he does silly things because he’s coming from a misguided place. When things head south for him you really worry about how things are going to work out.

Percy is my soft bean I love him so much and I just want him to be happy forever. And Felicity is so magical, she’s sarcastic, hilarious and smart and I’m really excited to read her spin off novel.

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Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Thank you to netgalley and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is set in the 20s during the time of prohibition, but that’s not the only thing banned; people who have powers to manipulate people using art are also banned.

The biggest part of this book that I liked was the sisterhood. There was no girl on girl fighting for the sake of it, the 2 MCs were really close friends and loved each other and you could feel that throughout the whole book. They had really distinct personalities and I liked them as characters, however I felt like the book maybe should’ve been told from just one perspective because they all just rolled into one and it kind of felt like more of an omniscient narrator than separate character’s points of view in a way.

I also really loved the magic system, everything was related to art, some people could do magic with music, some with painting, some with poetry which I just found really cool. Though at times they would start to use their powers at moments where I just felt like it didn’t make sense to the situation, like surely someone would’ve stopped them before it actually took hold of them. Would it not be obvious to you that someone was Iron Cast if they started just randomly singing?

The world building could have done with some work. I found myself confused a fair amount of the time about just what was really going on. It felt a bit wooly at times and I think that was partly to do with the pacing which went from being really slow to really fast that I couldn’t really concentrate wholly on what was actually going on.

There was some really good points about racism and sexism that were brought up that are often swept under the carpet in historical fiction. Just because things were different doesn’t mean people were happy to just be treated like second rate citizens because of their gender or skin colour and this book was a reminder of that. Not only was one of the MCs facing difficulties in her life due to her magic but she was also black and whilst it is set in Boston where racism wasn’t nearly as bad as places in the south there was still a clear racial divide. It also raised some thoughts on the anti-Russian sentiments in the states, which not as strong as the narrative about racism against black people it was still there and mentioned.

I’d definitely be interested in what this author will come out with next as I can tell that she’s going to improve the more she writes.

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Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

Read this book.

I love Ruta Sepetys’ writing and this book didn’t disappoint. I was hit really hard by it. She knows how to write really horrible thing that actually happened in real life from a teenagers perspective without making them seem like an oblivious idiot.

Similar to Salt to the Sea this focuses on a little talked about part of the second world war: eastern europeans being deported from their homes to work in labour camps in Russia. Lina and her family are taken from Lithuania and placed in a camp in Siberia after a horrible long journey in a train car.

You could really feel the horrors of everything happening when reading this book, feel for the characters whose lives were completely unraveled. I just felt so sad reading this, knowing that this happened to real life people.

I connected to the characters far better than Salt to the Sea. Maybe because it was in one perspective I don’t know. Everyone felt so human, it didn’t feel like I was reading a novel it felt real, the characters spoke how I imagined they would, they reacted in both bad and good ways, there was nothing fake.

Sepetys’ research ethic is unparalleled, I love how much work she puts into it and making sure she thanks everyone who spoke to her.

My one gripe with this book was that I wish there was more about their lives after everything had happened. I wanted to see what their lives were like continuing after going through everything.

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