ARC REVIEW | To Best The Boys by Mary Weber






Rep: Dyslexia, Autism, Downs Syndrome, Women in Science | TWs: Death, Near Death Experiences, Grief, Parent Illness

Initially, this story comes off very outdated being set in a world where women have duties to the home, family, and sometimes socially, and men are the breadwinners nearly exclusively – going to college to be trained in something or doing other work, such as fishing. We have Rhen, who is a woman scientist and flies in the face of everything her society takes as normal, so obviously she’s a bit of an outsider. But she’s so cool! She thinks differently and it takes her so far!

Rhen’s mother is sick from an illness, which has no cure so Rhen and her father are doing research to try and find the cure. She gets samples from dead bodies to study and experiment with, which I found highly fascinating. Rhen is extremely unconventional. When the letter for the competition arrives, Rhen starts to get ideas about how to get funding, or even support, for their research into the illness and upcoming cure  – leading her to enter the competition herself! Her cousin, Seleni, is her companion in nearly everything, yet very opposite in her future goals. I enjoyed that recognition that women don’t all have to strive for great things to be fulfilled in life. Seleni just wants to be a wife and mother someday, but she is all for supporting Rhen in her dreams! We all need ladies like that in our lives – or just people in general! Find you people who lift you up!

I quite liked a lot of the side characters. Beryll was lovable, even if he was a bit of a flop. Lute was a bit standoffish – for good reason – but has a heart of gold (one of my favourites). Rhen’s parents are so great and made my heart soar. And Mr. Holm himself was quite surprising, and very modern!

The story was a lot of fun, but the pacing was a bit slow at times. Sometimes I felt I wanted more (action or detail, depending on the scene) and it kind of felt like part of the build up was just filler and could have been handled better. That really didn’t detract much from me loving the characters and how the story happened. It was unique and fun, and I would recommend it – if only for the important conversations about standing up for what you believe in and not having to fit in to what society expects of you. Even if you only pick it up for the labyrinth aspect, I hope you take away some of the important points Weber makes in this story.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

Thank you so much to Mary Weber and Thomas Nelson via for the Review Copy.

four stars

Can’t Freakin’ Wait Wednesday 13/03/19

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa over at Wishful Endings and was based on Waiting on Wednesday’s, which is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. She created it to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released, but that’s not always the case. I happen to have pile upon piles of books I am excited to read, so thought this would be a fun meme in which to partake!

I’m going to be honest with you, I wasn’t a massive fan of Fawkes last year. I didn’t think it was done well and I found it pretty boring. However, I cannot resist an Anastasia retelling! This looks absolutely fabulous and I actually already preordered it. There’s a campaign here, if you also want to preorder it! Now, it IS international, but the physical swag was limited to the first 200 only. So, that’s already gone, unfortunately… The annotated chapter and recipe card sound like good swag, though! I love Russian recipes – I actually took several semesters of Russian in uni, so I’m a little bit of a Russophile. Unapologetically! Which was also a bit draw for me to this novel. So, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Have you read this yet or is it on your TBR? What do you think of the description?


From the author of Fawkes comes a magical take on the story of Anastasia Romanov. The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it. Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before. Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . . That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (eARC review)

TITLE: Fawkes

AUTHOR: Nadine Brandes

RELEASES: July 10th 2018 by Thomas Nelson

GENRE: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

“I breathed deep through my nose. No matter my answer, there was no going back. I was committing to either treason or cowardice. I’d been a coward once already that day.No longer.”

MY THOUGHTS: Like many other MCs, Thomas Fawkes is an idealist, albeit an extremely honest with himself idealist. He admits to being a coward and many other things besides. This honesty made me like him all the more; although, he’s definitely no hero. If he had tried to hide it, I would have scoffed and the story would have lost a little something for me. As it was, the story was slow moving and pretty boring in my view. Keepers and Igniters are similar to modern-day religion with opposing views that are irreconcilable. Catholics versus Protestants many years ago is what comes to mind. This society had one way of thinking versus the other, which is pretty normal in most storylines, but this particular one was dangerous. If you were a Keeper, you had a death wish. 

“The very topic of White Light has caused Igniters to hunt down and murder Keepers. Wouldn’t you be wary if you weren’t an Igniter?”

Thomas doesn’t have strong family ties as his mother died when he was young and his father was away working on some plot. Now, Thomas is looking for answers to his Keeper background and upbringing after being raised and schooled among Igniters. Why is White Light so taboo among Keepers, while, for Igniters, it brings freedom of power and allows more power than Keepers seem to be comfortable with? White Light is the source of all power, so Keepers believe it must be locked down and ignored. Does speaking to White Light really make people power hungry or is that simply a personal trait that is not really correlated with being an Igniter? Do Keepers, or anyone really, fully understand White Light? Or is White Light truly bad? These are all questions Thomas sets out to answer for himself.

Then Emma, a girl from Thomas’ school, turns up in London and kind of throws a spanner into his plans. She pushes him to ask more questions and a colleague of the plot demands they ‘seek the source’. She’s an Igniter, but has something she’s hiding. He doesn’t know whether he can trust her or not, but still allows himself to get close to her, as it allows him access to information necessary to the plot.

“My culture had affected my way of thinking without my consent,How many other things had it shaped without my knowing it? It made me want to examine things – to seek the heart of matters. Of skin color, of Keepers, of Igniters, of White Light, of all my assumptions.”

If you’re involved in a plot that will change the way your society works in the long run, do you still stand up for what you know to be right in your day to day life? Or do you let that go so as not to draw attention to yourself and keep yourself free for the bigger picture?

A few times throughout the novel, Thomas enacts some heroic act – usually in relation to Emma. But I want to know – is he doing it to impress her or rather because her conviction give him the strength to be less than cowardly? I feel like it’s a bit of both, really. He’s like any young boy, wanting the attention of the pretty girl from school, but being also involved in such a huge plot, he has other things on his mind, as well. He wants to be brave and stand up for what he believes, the trouble is he’s a coward who doesn’t know what to believe yet.

“The resignation in my voice sickened me, but I clung to my knowledge of the Gunpowder Plot. It would change this. I would change this.”

All in all, I struggled to finish this book. I very nearly DNF’ed it, but was so close to the end that I forced myself on. The last 10% got better and then had a terrible ending. I wouldn’t recommend this to very many people simply because I found it boring. The historical aspect was slightly interesting, but the characters that made up the story ruined the plot for me entirely. I didn’t find them relatable or interesting, so I just could not get into the story. I found myself avoiding the book at quite a few points. 


BLURB: Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

“..blowing up three hundred Parliament members and the king of England wasn’t restoration. It was death with no phoenix to rise out of it.”

All quotes are taken from an ARC and may not match the final product. Thank you so much to Thomas Nelson for providing me with this ARC via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review!

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